Are you experiencing frequent pain in your elbow, shoulder, or hip? Did you injure yourself recently and the joint pain doesn’t seem to go away? Chances are that you could be suffering from bursitis.

It is a condition caused by inflammation at the joints that is quite common in athletes. However, it affects the common public too. Every year, more than 1 in 10,000 people are diagnosed with inflammation of the bursae. It goes by different names based on the location and cause of the pain and is much more prevalent than you may think. Here is everything you need to know about it, including diagnosis and treatment.

What Is Bursitis?

Bursitis is a condition marked by the inflammation of the bursae. Bursae are fluid sacs that act as cushions between our bones, muscles, and tendons. There are more than 150 such sacs in our body that lubricate our joints and help with pain-free movement. They reduce friction between the tissues and act as cushions to absorb shock.

When the bursa gets inflamed due to injury or infection, it results in pain and discomfort at the site of inflammation.

This pain usually appears at the joints, and you may also experience restriction in movement because of the same.

The appropriate bursitis treatment can help you manage the pain, depending on the cause of inflammation.

What Is Bursitis

What Are the Primary Causes of Bursitis?

Coming to the question of what causes bursitis, here are some of the common reasons why you could be experiencing this condition.

  • Injury – Any injury that occurs during sports or day-to-day activities can lead to the inflammation of the bursae. To avoid this, always warm up and stretch your body before exercise or any strenuous activity.
  • Infection – A bacterial infection can also affect the bursae and lead to bursitis. This usually happens when the bacteria from a nearby wound make it to the bursae. It can also happen as a consequence of blood, skin, or joint infections.
  • Improper Posture – Standing or sitting in an uncomfortable posture for a long time can also lead to different types of bursitis. A poor posture can trigger inflammation in the bursae at different joints, depending on what part of the body you strain. So, try to maintain a good posture at all times.
  • Repetitive Motion – Any repetitive motion that can strain a joint causes bursitis in the long run. This condition is often prevalent among sportspersons that deliver repetitive strokes with their limbs. Other activities that involve repetitive motion, such as gardening, carpentry, or cleaning can also trigger the condition. Stretching, warm-up, and frequent breaks can protect you from pain and inflammation.
  • Hard Surfaces – If you sit or kneel on a hard surface for a long time, it can trigger bursitis. Therefore, you should always add a cushion between your joints and the floor when kneeling or sitting on a hard surface.
  • Other Diseases – Inflammation due to other diseases can also result in bursitis symptoms. These diseases and conditions include arthritis, gout, and thyroid disorders. The condition may also appear as a reaction to the medicine for these disorders.

    If you have been exposed to any such condition that causes bursitis, do keep an eye out for any joint pain or inflammation that may require medical attention.

What Are the Different Types of Bursitis?

Types of Bursitis
Based on the location and cause of inflammation, the following types of bursitis have been identified:

  • Olecranon bursitis – Inflammation occurs at the tip of the elbow. This condition is marked by chronic pain around the elbow and sometimes visible nodules are present at the site.
  • Retrocalcaneal bursitis – Inflammation accompanied by pain and swelling on the heel. This condition can be chronic or acute.
  • Trochanteric bursitis – Inflammation of the bursae at the hips. This condition gradually progresses in severity and is often accompanied by arthritis.
  • Prepatellar bursitis – Inflammation of the bursae at the kneecap. This condition can be both chronic and acute.
  • Septic bursitis – Condition marked by the infection of the bursae. It can be accompanied by redness and swelling. You may also experience symptoms of an infection, such as fever and chills.

What are the Early Warning Signs and Prevention of Bursitis?

The best way to prevent the condition is to understand what causes bursitis. Inflammation of the bursae is usually caused by repeated movements and injuries and is therefore prevalent among sportspersons.

Studies reveal that inflammation of the bursae at the heels is a common condition that impacts athletes. Similarly, inflammation at the elbows is referred to as Tennis Elbow because it is prevalent among tennis players that repeatedly strike the ball with an elbow motion.

Not just sportspersons, this condition is more likely to affect anyone whose profession involves repetitive joint motions. These could include carpentry, scrubbing, gardening, and plumbing, to name a few.

As the adage goes, prevention is better than cure. If your daily routine requires repeated and strenuous movement of the joints, you need to take some precautionary measures. These could include wearing pads or using cushions to protect your joints.

You should also try to maintain a good posture and take frequent breaks from strenuous activity. Moreover, warm-up and stretching before each leg of work are essential to prevent bursitis.

Other tips to prevent the condition that applies to everyone include the following:

  • Avoid sitting in the same posture for a long time
  • Maintain healthy body weight
  • Don’t sit on hard surfaces for a long time
  • Avoid straining a joint that is hurting already

The early signs of the condition include pain, redness, or swelling at the joints. If you notice any of these symptoms, avoid straining the joint for the next few days. Use a hot and cold compress alternatively to soothe the pain.

With ample rest and this at-home bursitis treatment, you can eliminate the early symptoms of the condition. You will also need to be careful about not straining the joint for a few weeks after the pain subsides.

What are the Common Bursitis Symptoms and Diagnosis?

Bursitis Symptoms
The common symptoms associated with different types of bursitis are the following:

  • Pain or swelling at the joints
  • Stiffness at the joints
  • Difficulty in limb movement
  • Bruising, redness, or rashes
  • Fever and chills
  • Body pain

While rest and at-home pain relief treatments can reverse the early symptoms of bursitis, if the pain is accompanied by fever or chills, do consult a doctor at the earliest. Moreover, if the pain is severe or becomes chronic, then you may need medical attention and prescription medication.

If your pain does not subside after one week of rest or is extremely sharp and severe, you must consult a doctor. The diagnosis of bursitis may involve the following steps:

  • Physical Examination – Your doctor will physically examine the joint and check for redness, swelling, nodules, or inflammation. In the case of mild bursitis symptoms, a physical exam might be sufficient for the prognosis. However, in the case of severe symptoms, additional tests may be required.
  • Imaging Tests – The doctor may recommend some imaging tests to rule out other underlying causes of the pain. These tests include X-ray, Ultrasound, and MRI, which provide a clear image of the joint. They will reveal any internal injury or anomaly that may be causing the pain.
  • Pathology Tests – In the case of inflammation caused by an infection, bursitis treatment may require antibiotics. If you are showing signs of an infection, such as fever and chills, the doctor may perform needle aspiration to draw out fluid from the joint. This fluid will then be tested in the lab to check for any infections.

    Based on the results of the diagnostic tests and the severity of bursitis symptoms, your doctor may prescribe different treatments. In most cases, the condition can be cured completely with medication and rest without the need for surgical intervention.

What are the Treatments for Bursitis?

Studies[1] have documented the treatment strategies for inflamed bursae. These vary based on the cause, location, and severity of the symptoms.

The most common bursitis treatment strategies are the following:

  • Resting and avoiding aggravating movements
  • Hot and cold compress
  • Pain medication
  • Raising the affected joint to relieve pain
  • Wearing a brace to support the joint
  • Steroids to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Antibiotics in the case of bursitis caused by an infection
  • At-home exercises for pain relief
  • Physical therapy
  • Surgery, in rare cases, when the pain doesn’t subside

Treatments for Bursitis

In some cases, the doctor may perform needle aspiration to remove the fluid from the inflamed bursa. However, it may not be a permanent solution and comes with the risk of infections.

Rest, physical therapy, and medications are enough to eliminate the bursitis symptoms. However, for severe inflammation, surgical intervention may be required. It is performed under local anesthesia and usually an outpatient procedure.

The surgeon will make a small incision to drain the pus from the bursa or remove the bursa completely.

The surgeon will insert a drainage tube at the site for 1-2 weeks to drain the pus. You will need to keep the joint immobile for this duration. If the bursa is removed completely, the joint will have less cushioning but retains its full range of movement.

Bursitis treatment is usually able to eliminate the pain and inflammation from the affected area. However, if you still experience pain after the full course of treatment, it could indicate an incorrect diagnosis or an underlying chronic condition.

Another reason for recurring symptoms could be a new injury at the same location. You may need to consult a doctor again in these rare cases and may have to rerun the diagnostic tests.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bursitis

Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursae or fluid sacs that act as cushions between bones, tendons, and muscles at the joints.

The inflammation can happen due to an injury, infection, or repetitive motions. Common symptoms of the condition include pain, redness, or swelling at the affected joints.

The different types of bursitis usually impact the different joints in the body. The pain is experienced in the knees, elbows, hips, heels, or shoulders. It may also be accompanied by arthritis.

The inflammation of the bursa due to infection or injuries leads to pus buildup in the sacs. This pus buildup may cause redness or swelling at the affected joint. Sometimes, it may show up as visible nodules in the affected area.

In most cases, non-surgical treatments can cure the condition. However, in the case of severe inflammation, surgical intervention is required to drain or remove the bursa. Studies are investigating the most effective surgical techniques to achieve the same.

Anyone whose profession demands repetitive and strenuous motions of the limbs is more prone to developing bursitis symptoms. This could include athletes, carpenters, handymen, cleaners, and gardeners. However, anyone can develop the condition after an injury due to bad posture or after kneeling on a hard floor.

Bursitis is marked by the inflammation of the bursae. The inflamed bursae swell up and press against the tissue at the joint. This is why any movement of the joint leads to pain caused by friction. The pus buildup inside the bursae further aggravates this pain by applying pressure on the surrounding tissue.


Bursitis may often mask itself as standard joint pain but should not be ignored or taken lightly. When left untreated, it can result in chronic or acute inflammation, which may even require surgical intervention. It is best to take preventive measures to avoid this condition and to seek early treatment if the need arises.

The most effective prevention and treatment strategy involves understanding what causes bursitis in your case. Those in a profession that demands strenuous limb movement are at a higher risk of developing symptoms. It is crucial to take preventive measures such as wearing protective padding, taking frequent breaks, and avoiding risky postures.

If you develop the symptoms of the condition, such as pain, redness, or swelling, seek medical attention at the earliest. Ample rest, pain medication, and physical therapy can help you recover fully in most cases. This approach to preventing and treating bursitis can keep your joints healthy and fully functional!