Understanding Bursitis

Bursitis is a condition where the bursa is inflamed or irritated. The bursa is a sac located between tissues – bone, muscle, tendons and skin. It is filled with lubricating fluid, and thus when inflamed or irritated, it causes rubbing and friction.

What causes bursitis?

Bursitis is usually caused by minor, but recurring impact on a certain area, or from a single sudden but more serious injury.

Injury can increase a person’s risk of having bursitis. So does overexertion. Some activities that are considered high-risk include: gardening, raking, carpentry, shoveling, painting, scrubbing, tennis, golf, skiing, throwing, and pitching.

Poor or incorrect posture, and incorrect stretching and/or conditioning before exercise can also increase the risks of bursitis.

Another cause is aging. Tendons become less elastic and become more prone to tearing as we get older. Thus, they are less able to tolerate stress less.

Abnormal or incorrectly placed bone or joint can add stress on a bursa sac and cause bursitis. Other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, psoriatic arthritis, thyroid disorders can also increase the risk of developing bursitis.

Other possible causes include unusual reactions to medication. Infections can also cause inflammation of the a bursa.

Who can get bursitis?

Adults, particularly people aged 40 and above are more susceptible to developing bursitis.

Which body parts are affected by bursitis?

Bursitis usually affects the base of the thumb, the shoulder, elbow, hip, knee and achilles tendon.

What are the symptoms of bursitis?

Pain at the bursa and surrounding areas usually signals bursitis. The pain may build up gradually or come sudden and severe – particularly if there are calcium deposits present. "Adhesive capsulitis" or loss of motion in the shoulder can also be symptom of bursitis.

How can bursitis be prevented?

To prevent bursitis, your activities should build up gradually. Use only limited force and limit your repetitions. If your feel unusual pain in the middle of an activity, stop what you are doing and try again later. If pain recurs, do not continues, do not do the activity that day.

How is bursitis treated?

There are many ways to treat bursitis. First, defer from activities that worsen the problem. Put ice on the injured area (the day it was injured) and rest it. Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication to relieve the pain.

If the pain does not go away after a week, see your doctor. He/she can prescribe other medications to relieve the inflammation. Corticosteroids – or simply "steroids" – work quickly to decrease the inflammation and pain. Steroids are one of the safest treatment methods. They can even be injected directly on the injured area.

However, about 30% of people may not get total relief from a single injection. Also, about 2% of people may even get worse. For recurrent cases, using steroids frequently – that is more than every 3 months – is not safe.

Another treatment option is physical therapy. It’s especially used to treat a frozen shoulder. Physical therapy includes range of motion exercises and splinting (thumb, forearm, or bands).

When to see your doctor

Aside from your bursitis condition not improving after a week, you should also consult your doctor if you have fever, swelling, redness, warmth, general illness or multiple areas that are in pain, and inability to move affected area/s. They maybe signs of another condition that may need more immediate medical attention.