Bursitis symptoms, causes and treatment

The body’s joints have fluid-filled sacs, which are called bursae. They are surrounding the areas where the skin, tendons, and muscle tissues meet the bones. These sacs help in reducing friction while moving.

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When bursae develop inflammation, this is when bursitis happens. If you have inflamed bursae, you can feel pain and discomfort in the affected area. Bursitis also will limit your ability to move. 

Though bursitis has different types, it has general symptoms which are:

  • swelling
  • redness
  • pain
  • bursae thickening

Types of Bursitis

Bursitis has several types, and they may either be chronic or acute. These types come with specific symptoms:

  • Prepatellar bursitis: this type of bursitis comes with kneecaps inflammation. It can either be chronic or acute.
  • Olecranon bursitis: the inflammation can be found around the elbows. This type is often a chronic one.
  • Trochanteric bursitis: this affects the bursae in your hips, and it develops slowly. 
  • Retrocalcaneal bursitis: pain and swelling can be felt in your heels. It’s either chronic or acute.
  • Infectious bursitis: this is a bursa infection which makes bursa hot, red, or swollen. It can also result in fever, chills, and other symptoms of infection.

Causes of Bursitis

The two most common causes of this condition are damages of bursae or injuries. A damaged bursa can trigger swelling, redness, and pain. But since bursitis has different types, they have specific causes as well.

Prepatellar Bursitis

This condition will happen if bursae around your kneecaps get damaged. The possible causes can be:

  • sport-related activities
  • infection
  • bleeding in your bursae
  • bending your knees often

Olecranon Bursitis

Aside from infection, this condition may also happen if you keep resting your elbows on a hard surface. A hard blow or impact in the back area of your elbow may also result in Olecranon bursitis.

Trochanteric Bursitis

Many reasons can cause pain and inflammation in your hips. They may include:

  • injury
  • infection
  • improper posture while standing and/or sitting
  • diseases that could affect the health of your bones like arthritis

Retrocalcaneal Bursitis

There’s a long list of activities that can inflame the bursae on your heels. They may include:

  • running
  • jumping
  • repetitive activities
  • starting strenuous activities without a proper warm-up
  • Too-tight shoes

Diagnosis and Treatment of Bursitis

The diagnosis of bursitis is commonly made through physical examination. But there are cases where tests are recommended to determine the actual condition. Some doctors use MRI to get a clearer picture of the affected area, and blood samples may be extracted for the diagnosis.

Treatment of Bursitis

When you were diagnosed with bursitis, pain medication, cause bacterial infection, rest, and icing, your affected joint can ease the symptoms and your condition. Other treatments may include:

  • Antibiotics – if your doctor found infection in your bursa, he will prescribe antibiotics to relieve the infection.
  • Corticosteroids – this treatment can ease the inflammation, pain, and swelling of the bursa as long as there is no sign of infection.
  • Surgery – some conditions may need surgery to treat bursitis completely. During the surgery, the damaged bursa will be removed, and the fluids in your bursa will be drained.
  • Physical therapy – this is done to many patients who have bursitis. Physical therapy can ease pain and other symptoms.

Preparing for Your Appointment

The first step in treating bursitis is to see your family doctor. Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor may refer you to a specialist of joint disorders or a rheumatologist. But before you head to your doctor’s clinic, it is advised that you create a list of the following:

  • details of your symptoms and when they started
  • information of your medical history together with the medical history of your family
  • other medications and supplements that you take and you must include each dosage
  • related questions that you want to ask your doctor

The following are the samples questions that you can ask your doctor:

  • What is the possible cause of my symptoms?
  • What are the tests that I will need to undergo to diagnose my condition?
  • What is the best treatment approach for my bursitis?
  • How can I manage my bursitis when I have other medical conditions?
  • Do I need to limit my activities?
  • Do I need to stop my exercise routine?
  • Do you have printed materials that can help me with my condition?
  • What are the recommended websites for a person who has bursitis?

The initial consultation with your doctor will be more organized and detailed if you can prepare the possible questions about bursitis and other concerns related to it.

What to expect from your doctor?

For patients who are suspected with bursitis, the physical exam will include pressing of various spots around the affected joint so your doctor can determine whether the cause of pain is a specific bursa. You must also expect the following question from your doctor:

  • How did your pain start? Did it happen gradually or suddenly?
  • What is the nature of your work?
  • What is your hobby or other recreational activity?
  • Do you feel your pain gets worse when doing a certain activity like kneeling or climbing stairs?
  • Have you tried any treatment?

How Can You Avoid Bursitis

You can avoid some types of bursitis, while others cannot be prevented. Though that is the case, there are different tips that you can follow to reduce the risk and severity of this condition. Some of them are the following:

  1. Use kneeling pads. If you are expected to kneel due to your work, hobby, or other responsibilities, you can use kneeling pads and reduce the pressure on your knees. You will be surprised by how comfortable you can feel while using padding.
  2. Lift properly. When you are carrying heavy items at work or even at home, you must bend your knees properly when you start to lift. If you do not do this, you are putting extra stress on the bursae of your hips.
  3. Wheel heavy loads. It is not recommended to carry heavy loads because it can hurt and damage the bursa in your shoulders. As much as possible, use a wheeled cart or dolly to carry and transfer heavy loads.
  4. Take frequent breaks. If you have heavy or repetitive tasks, it won’t hurt to take breaks. Give your body a break frequently to minimize the pressure with your bursa.
  5. Maintain a healthy weight. Most overweight people are more likely to develop this bursitis because the weight puts more stress on their body joints. Maintain a healthy and balanced weight to prevent this condition.
  6. Regular exercise. You need to strengthen your muscles so you can protect your affected joints. Practice regular exercise and always warm up before you start any strenuous activities.

Risks of Having Bursitis

Bursitis can happen to anyone since it involves a common part of the human body. But you can have a higher risk of developing this condition due to the following factors:

  • Age – bursitis is very common for people who are aging. As a person gets older, many parts of the body are deteriorating, and the bursa is one of them. That’s why you need to be more cautious as you age and make sure to listen to your body carefully.
  • Occupations or hobby – there are works or hobby that will require repetitive motion or pressure on specific bursae. Because of this, you are increasing your risk of developing bursitis. Some examples are tile setting, painting, gardening, carpet laying, and playing musical instruments.
  • Other medical conditions – diseases such as diabetes, gout, and rheumatoid arthritis can also increase your chances of developing bursitis. If you are overweight, you may develop bursitis with your hip and knees.
  • Improper posture – you may not feel it in the early stage, but your improper posture can be the reason why you will have bursitis. You need to practice the right posture for both sitting and standing.
  • Infection – this is very common, and it can happen to anyone. But you need to know that infection can spread to your bones, joints, and bursae if you leave it untreated. 

When to Seek Medical Attention

Bursitis is one of the conditions that can be infectious, and you will need the right antibiotic to treat it. So it is best to set an appointment with your doctor the moment you see or feel the symptoms. Some joint pains cannot be relieved with home care or self-medication. With the help of your doctor, you can determine the alternative solutions for your bursitis like cortisone injection. 

You need to see your doctor immediately if you feel the following:

  • a joint pain that can stop you from doing simple tasks
  • a sudden inability to move one or more joints
  • an affected area with excessive redness, swelling, bruising or a rash
  • a sharp pain that happens when you start to exercise, or you exert yourself
  • a high fever that lasts for days since it can be a sign of infection

Bursitis can be more painful and can cause complications if you continue to ignore your symptoms. Take care of your bursa and maintain strong joints while aging.