Science, Tech, Math › Social Sciences When to See a Doctor for Bursitis Share Flipboard Email Print IMANE / Getty Images Social Sciences Ergonomics Psychology Sociology Archaeology Economics Environment Maritime By Chris Adams Engineering Expert B.I.D, Industrial and Product Design, Auburn University Chris Adams is a human factors engineer who writes about ergonomics and has 11 years of experience in the field. our editorial process Chris Adams Updated March 22, 2020 Bursitis is defined as the irritation or inflammation of a bursa (fluid-filled sacs attached to joints). You can often effectively treat bursitis at home. However, in some cases, you may want or need to treat bursitis with some techniques not available at home and require a visit to a doctor. If you have bursitis and you experience a warm swelling, a fever, or become sick, you may have septic bursitis and should seek medical attention. Septic bursitis requires treatment with antibiotic medication. In the case of non-septic bursitis you should consider seeing a doctor: If the pain becomes severe or is getting progressively worse.If your range of motion is being hampered and the swelling and stiffness are getting worse.If your strength is affected.If the injury is becoming chronic and never fully alleviates, or commonly reoccurs.If methods for preventing bursitis have not proven sufficient.If home treatments are not effective.If you can not change your habits or the repetitive stress causing your bursitis is unavoidable. What to Expect From Your Doctor If you are seeking medical help for your bursitis, then your general practitioner is probably your first stop. Your doctor will need a history of your condition, including the symptoms and activities that trigger or worsen the symptoms. Additionally, you should provide your doctor with information about any treatments, over the counter medication, or home remedies you have tried and how effective they have been. Your doctor will perform a basic physical examination of the affected area to check for a swollen bursa. Diagnostic imagery is usually not required but in some difficult cases, it may be requested. Imagery, such as an X-ray or MRI, can help fill out a comprehensive diagnosis. Once diagnosed, your doctor may prescribe treatment or refer you to a specialist. In some cases, your doctor may suggest draining the bursa to reduce the swelling. This can usually be done during the same visit. Your doctor will simply insert a syringe into the bursa and remove some of the fluid. This can provide immediate relief but does not treat the cause of bursitis. When referring you to a specialist, your general practitioner will often suggest a physical therapist or occupational therapist. These therapists will develop a treatment regimen of exercise and/or behavioral therapy that should change or remove the repetitive stress that is causing bursitis, as well as strengthening the area so it is more robust. What to Bring to Your Doctor Being prepared with a thorough history of your symptoms can help your doctor diagnose your bursitis. Organize your information to help your doctor get through all the pertinent parts in the time usually allotted for an appointment. The information you should have on hand includes: What your symptoms are.When your symptoms first presented or started.How severe your symptoms are.If your symptoms come and go or are persistent.What activities trigger or worsen your symptoms.What kind of repetitive stress concerning the area of your bursitis you regularly encounter.Any candidate causes of bursitis you have identified.Any injuries within the past six months to the area of your bursitis.Other medical conditions you currently suffer from or have had in the past, including surgeries. When gathering your information, it is beneficial to journal your symptoms. Write down all your symptoms, along with notes about duration and severity. Use a Visual Analog Pain Scale to track the pain. Make notes of the activities that may contribute to bursitis and what effect they seem to have. Furthermore, write down any treatments and if they have a positive or negative effect. Last but not least, write down any questions you have for your doctor before your appointment. Patients often get nervous or forget their questions when face-to-face with their doctor. Write down your questions and make sure you get satisfactory answers before you leave. Don't forget that your doctor is there to help you and you are paying them for that help, so make sure to get your money's worth.