Bursitis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments - Dr. Burke Orthopedics


Inflammation of the bursa is known as bursitis. A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that is found in the large joints, typically the elbow, knee, hip and shoulder. Its main function is to ensure that joints slide against each other smoothly. The bursa provides lubrication by cushioning tendons, muscles and bones in the joint region.

Bursitis is often considered a part of arthritis since the inflammation is inside the joint region. This type of arthritis tends to not be inclined to age, gender or race.


The causes of bursitis include:

    • History of recent trauma to the affected joint.
      • Sports injury secondary to:
        • Tennis
        • Skiing
      • Occupational hazards
        • Carpentry
        • Shoveling
        • Raking
    • Repeated movements
      • Occupational habits
        • Golfing
        • Painting
      • Poor posture habits
      • Irregular leg/arm length
      • Joint deformities secondary to Rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis.
      • Long standing pressure on a joint e.g. a person leaning on the tip of the elbow joint for prolonged periods of time.
      • Infection secondary to a break from the skin


      • Pain is the hallmark of bursitis.
        • Pain is described as nagging, irritating or annoying.
        • The pain in this type of arthritis tends to build up gradually over hours.
        • Severe pain has been described as sharp, shooting or sore-like.
      • Swelling around the joint tends to have a fluctuant consistency suggestive of a fluid-like sac.
      • There is a notable limited range of motion.
      • There is tenderness on the surface of the joint region.
      • If the bursa is infected, the joint region becomes warm.


The therapeutic goal in bursitis is to reduce the pain. This includes pharmacological treatment, physical therapy and rarely surgical intervention. Dr. Burke is a skilled orthopedic surgeon excellent with diagnosing bursitis. A lot of clinicians tend to pass it off as arthritis which offers limited resolution of symptoms. In one appointment, Dr. Burke can work you up and give you the right treatment plan.

Treatment plans include:

      • Rest
      • NSAIDs e.g. diclofenac
      • Immobilizing the affected joint with a splint
      • Physiotherapy e.g. hot or cold, range of motion exercises
      • Local steroid injections