Bursitis: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Bursitis: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

What is Bursitis?

Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa. Bursa are described as small flat sacs with a small amount of fluid in them. They are naturally located in our bodies in areas where friction is likely to occur from motion. Their job is to aid in reducing friction from motion by allowing differing components of our anatomy to efficiently slide and glide around each other. We have some that are located just under the skin and others that are placed between or under muscles and tendons.

What Causes Bursitis?

Physical causes:

  • Overuse or repetitive motion of the affected area
  • Trauma directly over the bursa
  • Infection
What Causes Bursitis?

Medical cause:

  • The affected bursa fills with fluid from overuse or trauma compressing the surrounding tissues.
  • Gout
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Infections
  • Overweight (hips and knees)

What are the Symptoms of Bursitis?

Symptoms of bursitis may show up quickly with a trauma to the area or may come on after time in the case of repetitive or overuse issues. Most symptomatic cases of bursitis are from the acute stage, as chronic bursitis usually becomes less painful.

What are the Symptoms of Bursitis?

Typical acute symptoms include:

  • The area may feel achy or stiff
  • A prominent swelling of the area with reddening (worse with infection) of the surrounding skin
  • Pain with motion of the joint associated with the bursa
    • This may vary based on where the issue is
  • Pain when palpating the area of discomfort

How to Prevent Bursitis?

  • Maintain mobility health. Create good habits of warming up, stretching, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight. All of these activities help to reduce stresses placed on the joints and the supporting structures around them.
  • Engage in proper ergonomics. Lifting properly and setting up work equiptment to fit you correctly will reduce the chronic stresses placed on joints and soft tissues throughout the day.
  • Reduce repetitive tasks. Take frequent breaks when tasked with performing repetitive or strenuous activities.

Bursitis Prevention Pathway


Ergonomic Hygiene

The art and science of adapting your physical workspace and surroundings to function best with your specific needs.

Ergonomic Hygiene

Proper posture, position and motion are critical to prevention. It impossible to achieve any of these without the proper workstation setup and healthy mobility.

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Mobility Health

The practice of performing mobilization and exercises to maintain proper functioning of the musculoskeletal system (joints, muscles and everything connecting them).


Warm-ups, stretches and strengthening exercises specifically designed to address risks to your mobility health from your environment (work and home).

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Injury and strain due to fatigue is very common and avoidable with proper rest intervals. Microbreaks during activities decrease injury risks.


It doesn’t take a lot of downtime to allow your body to recover and reset. Depending on the activity rest may just be one minute for every twenty minutes of activity.

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How is Bursitis Treated?

Treatment for bursitis is typically conservative and includes rest, ice and medication to relieve pain and inflammation. In some cases the bursa may need to be drained. Bursa are rarely removed surgically.

How is Bursitis Treated?

More Facts About Bursitis?

  • To You: direct costs of maximizing insurance deductibles and out of pocket max plus the costs of reduced quality of life, lost productivity due to time away from work, and potential disability.
  • To Employers: direct costs of $10,000-$20,000 per case plus the cost of quality, lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover.
  • To the U.S. Economy: direct care costs over $20 billion every year plus the costs of lost productivity and disability.

How Common is Bursitis?

More Facts About Bursitis?

FAQs About Bursitis

Home treatment of rest, ice and medications are typically recommended for bursitis. Some people may require physical or occupational therapy to help prevent recurrence. This may cost from several hundred to thousands of dollars per case.

Bursitis could happen in any area where a bursa is found. There are around 150 bursa located throughout the body. Most commonly issues arise in the

  • shoulder as subacromial bursitis (impingement syndrome(create condition page)) from overuse
  • elbow as olecranon bursitis. Most common from trauma or prolonged pressure on the elbow
  • hip as trochanteric bursitis. More common in middle-aged and older women
  • knee as Pes Anserine bursitis. Usually caused by poor biomechanics or lack of mobility health.
  • heel as Achilles tendon bursitis. May be caused by repetitive motion, poor fitting shoes or biomechanical issues.

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