Understanding the Symptoms and Treatment for Bursitis

Bursitis is an inflammation of fluid filled sacs (bursas) on joints

Bursitis is defined as the irritation or inflammation of a bursa (fluid filled sacs attached to joints). It most commonly occurs in adults over 40 years of age and results in discomfort or loss of motion in the affected joint

What Is a Bursa?

A bursa is a fluid-filled sac located around joints in the body that reduce friction and ease movement as tendons or muscles pass over bones or skin. They are located around joints and reduce friction and ease movement as tendons or muscles pass over bones or skin. Bursas are found next to all joints in the body. 

What Are the Symptoms of Bursitis?

The main symptom of bursitis is experiencing pain in the joints in the body — usually occurring in the shoulder, knee, elbow, hip, heel, and thumb. This pain may start subtle and build to extremely intense, especially in the presence of calcium deposits in the bursa. Tenderness, swelling, and warmth often accompany or precede this pain. Reduction in or loss of motion at the affected joint can also be symptomatic of more severe bursitis, such as the case of "frozen shoulder" or adhesive capsulitis wherein the pain from bursitis makes the patient incapable of moving the shoulder

What Causes Bursitis?

Bursitis can be caused by acute or repetitive traumatic impact to the bursa, repetitive stress through overuse of the joint, and post operation or injury infections. 

Age is one of the primary factors that cause bursitis. Due to prolonged stress on joints, especially those requiring daily use, tendons toughen and become less tolerant of stress, less elastic, and easier to tear resulting in an increased likelihood the bursa could become irritated or inflamed.
At-risk patients should use caution when engaging in activities that cause extensive stress to joints, such as gardening and many physically stressful sports, as they have also been known to carry a high-risk for causing the irritation.
Other medical conditions that cause additional joint stress (such as tendonitis and arthritis) may also increase a person's risk. 

How Do I Prevent Bursitis?

Being aware of the strain daily activities have on your joints, tendons and bursas can greatly reduce the likelihood of getting bursitis. For patients beginning a new exercise routine, stretching properly and gradually building up stress and repetition will help mitigate the possibility of a repetitive stress injury. However, since age is one of the primary causes of the ailment, bursitis is not entirely preventable. 

How Do I Know If I Have Bursitis?

Bursitis is difficult to diagnose as it shares many symptoms with tendonitis and arthritis. As a result, identification of symptoms and knowledge of causes can lead to a proper diagnosis of bursitis.

Follow these tips if you have been diagnosed with a repetitive stress injury and use a visual pain scale to track and identify your pain to help determine if you have bursitis.

If symptoms do not alleviate after a couple of weeks of self-care, the pain becomes too severe, swelling or redness occurs or a fever develops, you should schedule a consult with your physician.