A bursa is a sac filled with fluid, that surrounds the area, where the skin, muscle tissues, and tendons meet. The lubrication is necessary, as it leads to reduced friction during movement of the joint. Bursitis is a condition, where the bursae are inflamed. Inflammation of the bursae causes both pain and discomfort and may limit how you are able to move your joints.
What Are the Symptoms of Bursitis?
Bursitis leads generally to pain, redness, swelling, and a thickening of the bursae. There are different kinds of bursitis, each with their own specific symptoms.
What Types of Bursitis Are There?
Bursitis can be a chronic condition, meaning that it can remain or reoccur on a regular basis, while it can also be acute and only appear suddenly.
- Prepatellar bursitis is the condition, where the bursae around the kneecap, other known as the patella, are inflamed. Prepatellar bursitis can be either chronic or acute. Those who suffer from prepatellar bursitis might have difficulties with bending their leg.
- Olecranon bursitis is another type of bursitis, which includes the elbow. The bursae that are affected are located right at the tip of the elbow, other referred to as the olecranon. There are cases, where small nodules can even be felt within the bursa. Those suffering from olecranon bursitis might have difficulties moving their arm. It is a condition that is typically chronic.
- Trochanteric bursitis is another type of inflammation of the bursae, which includes the ones located at the hips. It is a condition that might develop slowly and appear alongside other medical issues, such as arthritis. It might lead to issues with walking. It can also make it impossible for patients to lie on the hip.
- Retrocalcaneal bursitis leads to issues in the heel and can be acute or chronic. It is also a type of bursitis, which might make it difficult to walk.
As bursitis is inflammation, it leads to the bursa becoming swollen, hot, or red. This means that patients are also likely to experience symptoms of infection, such as fever and chills.
What Causes Bursitis?
It is believed that the most common cause of bursitis is damage to the bursae or an injury. Damage of the bursae can trigger the redness, pain, and swelling in this area, however, the cause of the condition also seems to depend on which type of bursitis you suffer from.
- Prepatellar bursitis is typically caused by damage or a tear to the kneecaps. It can also be caused due to an infection, due to sports-related activities, due to bending the knees repeatedly or staying on the knees for a long time or due to bleeding in the bursae.
- Olecranon bursitis is typically caused by resting your elbows repeatedly on hard surfaces or due to a hard blow on the back of the elbow. In some cases, olecranon bursitis is caused by gout or by an infection. Gout is a condition that is caused by uric acid crystals building up in the body. It can lead to small nodules, or tophi, which are felt within the bursa.
- Bursitis of the hips, or trochanteric bursitis, can be caused by an injury, by lying on the hips for a long time, due to improper posture when standing or sitting or due to a condition, which affects the bones, such as arthritis.
- Retrocalcaneal bursitis, or bursitis of the heels, is typically caused by repetitive activities, running, and jumping. It is important that you stretch and warm-up before a strenuous exercise, otherwise you will increase the risk of suffering from this condition. If the shoes that you wear are too tight at the back of the heel, it also increases the risk of suffering from retrocalcaneal bursitis, as the shoes rub against the bursa.
- An infection or septic bursitis develops once the bursa gets inflamed after being infected from bacteria. In most cases, this occurs once there is a wound, through which the bacteria get introduced into the bursa. Cellulitis and other skin infections can lead to infectious bursitis, as well as blood infections or joint infections, which might spread to the bursa.
Symptoms of infectious bursitis are similar to the symptoms of bursitis which aren’t infections. Your doctor at ReBalance might need to draw a bursal fluid sample and analyze it, to check whether you suffer from infectious bursitis or not.
What Are the Risk Factors for Bursitis?
There are some risk factors for bursitis, which include dealing with a chronic health issue, age, repetitive use of a certain joint, improper posture, injuries to the bursae, suffering from an infection, which spreads to the bones, joints, and bursae, or participating in certain repetitive activities or sports.
How Is Bursitis Diagnosed?
In many cases bursitis is diagnosed through a physical exam, however, your physician might also need some additional tests to diagnose this condition. Some of the tests that are often used include X-rays and ultrasounds, which make images of the affected area.
In cases where the bursitis is limited to the joint only, it is recommended to have a needle aspiration done. There are cases, where needle aspiration can increase the risk of suffering from a secondary infection, so your doctor might have to weight out on performing it.
In cases where needle aspiration isn´t sage, the patient might be prescribed antibiotics instead. This therapy approach is known as empiric therapy.
How Is Bursitis Treated?
Resting, using pain medication, and putting ice on your joint can help to relieve bursitis. In some cases, other treatments might also be necessary. In cases where the bursa is infected, antibiotics are needed. Sometimes corticosteroids are used to help against the pain, inflammation, and swelling, however, they are only used in cases, when there is no sign of an infection. Some at-home exercises can help to relieve pain and other symptoms, while in very rare cases, physical therapy is necessary.
Can Bursitis Be Prevented?
Bursitis is a condition that isn’t always preventable, however, some lifestyle changes can help to reduce the risk of developing bursitis and it can also help to prevent severe cases of flare-ups. One of these lifestyle changes is maintaining a healthy weight, as being overweight puts additional pressure on the joints.
Exercising is also very helpful, as it can strengthen the muscles, which then support the joints. If you have to do repetitive tasks, it is important that you take frequent breaks and also warm-up before any strenuous activity. Good posture is important when you’re sitting and standing. If you experience pain during an activity, it is important that you stop immediately.
If you get treatment, the condition is very likely to improve, but in some cases, it can become chronic. Bursitis is more likely to become chronic if it’s not diagnosed and treated properly, or if it’s caused by an underlying condition, which hasn’t been or cannot be cured.