What is bursitis?

Bursitis is often confused with tendonitis. Bursitis is an inflammation of the bursae that cushion the bone. Tendonitis, on the other hand, is an inflammation of the tendon, or cord, that attaches muscle to bone.

Bursitis can be short-term (acute), as a result of an injury or infection. Or, it can be long-term (chronic), as a result of long-term repetitive motion. Chronic bursitis can occur in any joint that regularly performs repetitive motion.

Symptoms

Bursitis can be very painful. Bursitis often creates the following common symptoms in the affected joint(s):

  • Pain and swelling of the joint.
  • Stiffness
  • Achiness
  • Pain with pressure (it hurts more when you press on it)

Symptoms may vary based on the type of bursitis.

When to See a Doctor

The first sign of trouble with bursitis is pain. Please see your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Fever
  • Sudden inability to move a joint
  • Disabling pain in the affected joint
  • Excessive redness, swelling, or puffiness
  • A rash or bruising in the affected area
  • Sharp or shooting pains
  • Pain while exercising or exerting the affected joint

Causes

Bursitis can be caused by the following:

  • Overusing the joint, overuse at work, or during sports or recreation. The most common causes of bursitis are repetitive motions such as throwing a baseball or repeatedly lifting something heavy.
  • Injury
  • Putting the joint is put under pressure for a long time. Examples include leaning or kneeling on a hard surface for an long period of time.

The following groups of people typically perform these types of motion, and commonly develop bursitis:

  • Athletes. These can be anyone from professional athletes, to weekend-warriors. Many sports require highly repetitive motions, such as throwing a ball, running, jumping, or swinging a bat. These repetitive motions can irritate the bursa and cause bursitis.
  • Hard-labor/manual-labor workers. People that do highly repetitive, stressful movements, such as heavy lifting, may also irritate the bursa and cause bursitis.
  • Less Active People. People who are not regularly active can irritate their joints very easily while doing normal activities, such as carrying groceries, or exercising. This joint strain can lead to bursitis. It is important to gradually start any new workout routine.

Other causes of bursitis include trauma or injury to the affected joint, inflammatory arthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis), infection, and/or gout.

You are also more likely to get bursitis at an older age, or if your occupation or hobbies involve frequent repetitive motion.

Diagnosis & Tests, Treatments, & Prevention

Diagnosis & Tests

To diagnose bursitis, your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam. They may take a sample of the bursa’s fluid to make sure the pain is not caused by an infection.

In some cases a healthcare provider may also ultrasound or other imaging to help diagnoses bursitis. Ultrasound is a noninvasive medical test to help your doctor perform a diagnosis by showing real-time conditions of the body’s internal organs, blood vessels, muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, and soft tissues. It is very safe and painless.