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Bursitis is caused by the inflammation of a bursa. A bursa is a small fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between your bone and soft tissue (muscles, tendons and skin). A bursa (plural bursae) reduces friction and assists joint movement.
When you overuse or injure a joint, a nearby bursa can become irritated or inflamed. The bursa fills with excess fluid, causing significant pain and restricting movement.
The symptoms of bursitis may include:
The shoulder, elbow, hip, knee and heel are the most common sites of bursitis.
Injury, repeated pressure and overuse are common causes of bursitis. Some conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout and diabetes, can also contribute to its development. Being overweight can increase your risk of developing hip and knee bursitis.
Bursitis can also be caused by an infection. This may occur if a joint is injured and bacteria get into the bursa.
A common cause of bursitis is overuse of a joint, especially if the activity is performed awkwardly or with considerable pressure. Doing the same kinds of movements every day or putting stress on joints increases the risk of developing bursitis.
Examples of work-related activities that may trigger bursitis include production-line packing, laying carpet and typing. Sports that can cause bursitis include jogging, tennis and squash.
Bursitis is generally detected as a tender, warm swelling at the site of a bursa. A diagnosis may include investigating and ruling out any other possible causes.
Tests performed to confirm or rule out bursitis may include:
Treatment will depend on the cause of the bursitis, and aims to relieve your symptoms as much as possible while the healing process takes place.
Treatment options may include pain-relieving medications, cold packs, gentle mobilising exercises and rest. Anti-inflammatory medications or injections of corticosteroids may be used in cases of severe pain.
If infection is present, as well as pain and swelling of the affected area, you may develop other symptoms, such as a raised temperature. Treatment with an appropriate antibiotic is necessary to treat the infection.
If the bursitis was triggered by a particular form of overuse, it‘s important to avoid that activity, or modify how you perform that activity. An occupational therapist can help you find solutions to this problem.
Correct posture and joint protection are useful, and braces or splints can decrease the stress on the areas and support good alignment.
Your doctor, physiotherapist and/or occupational therapist can offer suggestions and strategies to reduce your risk of developing bursitis again.
To prevent work-related bursitis:
To prevent sport-related bursitis:
Call our MSK Help Line and speak to our nurses. Phone 1800 263 265 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This information has been produced in consultation with and approved by: Musculoskeletal Australia.