Swelling of the fluid filled sac (bursa) next to a joint. The elbow, shoulder, hip and knee are the joints most commonly affected.

Symptoms of bursitis

  • Pain: Especially when moving the joint
  • Swelling: The bursa may be visibly swollen in certain joints such as the elbow and knee
  • Tenderness: The area over the bursa is sensitive to pressure

What causes bursitis?

The bursa is a fluid filled sac that muscles and tendons roll over near a joint to help reduce friction. A prolonged period of activity can cause the bursa to become inflamed. An inflamed bursa creates greater friction around a joint resulting in stiffness and pain with movement. Bursitis can also occur as a result of pressure on a joint such as leaning on an elbow for a long time. An injury such as falling on a knee can also cause bursitis.

What can I do about it?

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  • Rest: Avoid using the joint until the swelling goes down.
  • Relax tight muscles: Tight or imbalanced muscles will slow recovery due to uneven pressure on the irritated joint. A physical assessment will help to discover any contributing factors.
  • Pressure: Wrapping the joint with a bandage can aid the reduction of swelling as well as to protect an injured or unstable joint.
  • Ice: In some cases chilling the affected area will help the swelling go away faster, but this method should be used minimally.
  • Medication: Non steroidal anti-inflammatory pills can help in cases that do not respond to any of the other approaches listed.

Other causes of joint pain or stiffness

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  • Tendonitis: A very common consequence of overuse, where the tendons become inflamed. Tendonitis is easily treated once correctly diagnosed. Treatment starts with several weeks of total rest of the area, and is followed by a rehabilitation plan of exercises and stretches.
  • Tight muscles: Chronically tense muscles will limit flexibility and will tire easily. Muscle hypertension also creates the familiar sensation of muscle ache. Careful stretching and mild exercise of a tight muscle will reduce the related symptoms effectively.
  • Osteoarthritis: Thinning of the cartilage in the joints causes them to swell and become stiff.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: An autoimmune disorder where the body attacks the joint cartilage in several joints at the same time. Typically affects the fingers.


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