What is bursitis?

Bursitis involves inflammation and swelling of a bursa. A bursa is a sac filled with fluid that develops under the skin, usually over the joints and functions as a cushion in between the bones and tendons. The indicative symptoms of bursitis include swelling, pain and tenderness in the affected area.

Any bursa can become inflamed, but bursitis can develop in the elbow, shoulder, knee or hip. Other areas that can be affected include the foot, ankle and Achilles tendon.

Signs and symptoms of bursitis

In case the individual has bursitis, the affected joint might feel stiff or achy, hurt more when it is moved or pressed on and appears reddened and swollen.

Causes of bursitis


Allowing the affected area to rest or application of an ice pack can minimize the inflammation as well as using pain medications.

Bursa can end up swollen due to injuries or repetitive movement. The risk for developing bursitis is heightened if the individual engages in regular physical activities that involve repetitive movement.

Individuals who spend a lot of time kneeling such as gardeners and carpet fitters also face a higher risk for developing the condition in the knee. In uncommon cases, it can develop due to an infection or as a complication of certain conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout.

Treatment for bursitis

In most cases of bursitis, it can be managed at home. Allowing the affected area to rest or application of an ice pack can minimize the inflammation as well as using pain medications such as paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen to relieve the symptoms as well as hasten the recovery.

The pain typically improves within a few weeks, but the swelling might take some time to fully subside. A doctor must be consulted if the symptoms do not improve after 2 weeks.

When to consult a doctor

A doctor should be consulted for the following:

  • Debilitating joint pain
  • Pain on the affected joint that lasts for 1-2 weeks
  • High temperature or fever
  • Excessive redness, swelling, bruising or rash in the affected area
  • Shooting or piercing pain especially when the individual engages in physical activities such as sports and exercise

Testing and diagnosis

The doctor can often diagnose the condition based on a medical history and physical exam. In case further testing is required, the doctor will require the following:

  • Imaging tests – An X-ray could not positively establish a diagnosis of bursitis but can help rule out other cause of the discomfort. An MRI or ultrasound might be performed if the condition could not be easily diagnosed with a physical exam alone.
  • Laboratory tests – The doctor will perform blood tests or analysis of fluid from the inflamed bursa to determine the cause of the joint pain and inflammation.

Prevention of bursitis

It is vital to take the necessary precautions such as using knee pads when kneeling and proper warm-up before exercise to minimize the risk for developing bursitis.


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