What is Bursitis?

From sprains and strains to arthritis and tendonitis, there are many common causes of joint pain.

One common cause that may not be as widely discussed is bursitis.

Bursitis is caused by the inflammation of a small, fluid-filled sac called a bursa, which works to reduce friction during the movement of joints. The bursae cushion your bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

The typical adult has 160 bursae in the body, all of which vary in size and shape depending on the location within the body. Certain activities and jobs put some people at a higher risk of bursitis.

What Causes Bursitis?

Bursitis is a temporary condition that can be caused by overuse, injury (from a heavy blow or a fall), or from infection of the bursa sac. Sometimes, however, bursitis can also occur without a specific cause.

Athletes and people whose jobs require repetitive motion commonly suffer from bursitis. People whose professions involve manual labor, such as carpenters, roofers, and plumbers, can be at risk. Specialty professionals, such as floor or tile installers, also can be at risk due to extended time spent kneeling on hard surfaces.

Symptoms of bursitis include inflammation, pain, and stiffness in the affected area, tenderness, and occasionally skin redness and warmth. Warm skin in the area could be a sign that the bursitis is caused by an infection.

Never Miss a Beat!

Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!

Message and data rates may apply. Text the word STOP to opt out and HELP for help. Click here to view the privacy and terms.

Where Does Bursitis Occur?

Bursitis can occur anywhere on the body, but is most common in the hips, knees, elbows, and shoulders.

Bursitis is most common in middle-aged people and varies in commonality between men and women depending on the location. Hip bursitis is more common in women, but knee and elbow bursitis is more common in men.

How Is Bursitis Treated?

Treatments can range from rest to surgery, depending on the severity and frequency of the issue.

In most cases, it is common to treat bursitis by keeping the affected area still and avoiding additional pressure. Ice packs and painkillers also can be used to relieve pain. For those who have bursitis due to repetitive motion or constant pressure on an area because of a sport or job, it is important to take precautions once inflammation goes away. For example, after healing from bursitis in the knee, you could use a foam kneeling pad or wear knee pads when kneeling.

If the bursitis becomes chronic, or does not go away, other treatments may be necessary, such as a steroid injection into the bursa. If bursitis is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed. While those are typically enough to treat the infection, in cases where they are not, surgery to remove the infected bursa also may be necessary.

Difference Between Bursitis, Tendonitis, and Arthritis

Many of the symptoms of bursitis also sound like another issue commonly associated with overuse and overexertion – tendonitis.

While bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa sac, tendonitis is inflammation of the tendon, which is a ropy, fibrous tissue that connects muscle to bone. Pain during activity is a hallmark of tendonitis.

Tendonitis is treated with rest, icing the area, and taking time off from the activity that causes the pain. Stretching and strengthening exercises, as well as physical therapy, also can help. For severe tendonitis, an orthopaedic surgeon may perform arthroscopic surgery.

Arthritis is a term that encompasses more than 100 conditions that affect the joints and tissues around the joints. Commonly, arthritis is diagnosed in those who are older, have suffered a previous joint injury, or are overweight. There are a number of other risk factors that put someone at higher risk for arthritis. Click here for information about common types of arthritis.

When to Seek Care for Bursitis

If you have pain and suspect you have bursitis, the sooner you seek treatment, the better.

Because the most common treatments for bursitis include rest, the sooner you consult your health care provider to get a diagnosis and start that rest, the sooner you can get back to your activities or even your job.

To learn more or schedule an appointment with UPMC Orthopaedic Care, please call 1-866-987-6784 or contact us online.

Sports Medicine Primary Care Doctors: The Tendonitis Experts | UPMC HealthBeat

Arthritis Types | CDC

Sprains, Strains, Fractures, Tendonitis, and Bursitis | UPMC HealthBeat

Bursitis: Overview - InformedHealth.org - NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)

Tendinitis & Bursitis (rheumatology.org)

Sports Injuries - Acute, Chronic & Common Injuries | NIAMS (nih.gov)

Anatomy, Skin Bursa - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)

Hip Bursitis - OrthoInfo - AAOS

Common Superficial Bursitis - American Family Physician (aafp.org)

About UPMC Orthopaedic Care

When you are dealing with bone, muscle, or joint pain, it can affect your daily life. UPMC Orthopaedic Care can help. As a national leader in advanced orthopaedic care, we diagnose and treat a full range of musculoskeletal disorders, from the acute and chronic to the common and complex. We provide access to UPMC’s vast network of support services for both surgical and nonsurgical treatments and a full continuum of care. Our multidisciplinary team of experts will work with you to develop the treatment plan that works best for you. Our care team uses the most innovative tools and techniques to provide better outcomes. We also are leaders in research and clinical trials, striving to find better ways to provide our patients care. With locations throughout our communities, you can find a provider near you.