What is Bursitis?

Near many joints of the body is located a bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac. The purpose of these bursae is to reduce friction. They may be located between two bones, or soft tissues. They help to make movement smoother, whether that be the movement of a muscle or a joint where two bones meet.

When the bursae become inflamed, you experience bursitis. This can be a very painful condition. There are more than 150 bursal sacs in the body helping to facilitate smooth motion by acting as a cushion and decreasing friction. Most commonly, bursitis will affect the knees, hips, elbows, and shoulders but this condition can occur anywhere in the body that contains a bursal sac.

What Causes Bursitis?

The causes of bursitis involve conditions that place too much pressure on the bursae, and the very friction that the bursae has the purpose of curtailing, overwhelms the bursal sac leading to bursitis. Some causes may be:

● Direct trauma to the area surrounding the bursal sac
● Infection
● Repetitive movements causing overuse
● Excessive kneeling as in the case of bursitis of the knee
● Excessive leaning on the elbows

What are Symptoms of Bursitis?

Some symptoms of bursitis will be:

● Pain in or near the joint that will increase with movement
● In more advanced cases of bursitis,  pain may be felt at rest
● Swelling
● Decreased range of motion
● Erythema (reddening of skin) and warmth
● A slight fever in the case that an infection is causing bursitis

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Knee Bursitis

When bursitis affects the knee joint, it is sometimes also referred to as Clergyman’s knee as a result of excessive kneeling. Anatomically, this condition is referred to as Prepatellar Bursitis. The name for your kneecap is ‘patella.’ So, knee bursitis is inflammation around the kneecap.

Shoulder Bursitis

The shoulder has a bursa located on the upper, outer arm very close the shoulder joint. Shoulder bursitis is common in athletes whose sport involves a lot of throwing.

Ankle Bursitis

Ankle bursitis is not as common as other forms. Anatomically, this condition is referred to as Retrocalcaneal Bursitis. The calcaneus is the name for the heel bone. Individuals that participate in sports that involve excessive running and jumping are susceptible to inflammation of the bursa at the heel. Also, not warming up properly before strenuous activity or wearing shoes that are do not fit well and are too tight are risk factors for ankle bursitis.

Treatments for Bursitis

Treatment for bursitis, as with anything causing pain, begins with an accurate diagnosis. An accurate diagnosis of bursitis can usually be confirmed with a physical exam only, but may require more involved testing such as an Ultrasound or MRI. If infection is suspected as a cause of bursitis, a test called a needle aspiration may be needed in order to extract and test fluid from the area.

Once a diagnosis of bursitis is confirmed, treatment may involve any or all of the following:

● Resting the area
● Icing the area in combination with elevation
● NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
● Stretching and strengthening muscles surrounding the affected joint
● Temporarily wearing a brace or using as assistive device while walking in order to lessen pressure on the bursa
● Corticosteroid injections
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