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Bursae are fluid-filled sacs found about your joints. They surround the areas where tendons, skin, and muscle tissues meet bones. The lubrication they add helps reduce friction during movement.
Bursitis is an inflammation of your bursae. Inflamed bursae cause pain and discomfort in the affected location. They also limit the ways you can move your joints.
General symptoms of bursitis include:
Different types of bursitis also have their own, specific symptoms:
There are several types of bursitis. These conditions may be chronic, meaning they occur on a regular basis. Alternately they may be acute, meaning they appear suddenly.
Prepatellar bursitis is inflammation around your kneecaps. It can be acute or chronic.
Olecranon bursitis is inflammation around your elbows. The affected bursae are located at the tips of your elbows. It’s usually chronic.
Trochanteric bursitis occurs in the bursae of your hips. It can develop slowly. It may appear alongside other medical conditions, such as arthritis.
Retrocalcaneal bursitis may cause pain and swelling in your heels. It can be acute or chronic.
Infectious bursitis is an infection in the bursa that causes the bursa to become red, hot, or swollen, and also results in chills, fever, and other symptoms of infection.
The most common causes of bursitis are injuries or damage to your bursae. Damage may trigger pain, swelling, and redness in the affected area.
However, causes tend to be different for each type of bursitis.
Tears or damage to your kneecaps or bursae may cause swelling. Other causes are:
Repeatedly resting your elbows on hard surfaces or a hard blow to the back of the elbow (olecranon) can cause this type of bursitis. It can also be caused by infection.
Many things can trigger bouts of inflammation and pain in your hips. These include:
Running, jumping, or other repetitive activities can inflame the bursae in your heels. Beginning a strenuous exercise without properly warming up may also be a cause. Shoes that are too tight in the back of the heel can make it worse as it rubs against the bursa.
Risk factors for bursitis include:
Bursitis can often be diagnosed by physical exam. However, tests can also be used to diagnose this condition. Your doctor can use an MRI to take images of the affected area. Blood tests and samples from the affected bursae can also be used for diagnosis.
Rest, pain medication, and icing your joint may relieve your bursitis. However, other treatments may be necessary:
Your condition may improve with treatment. However, bursitis can become chronic. This may be more likely if your bursitis is caused by an underlying health problem that can’t be treated.
Talk to your doctor if your pain or other symptoms don’t improve with treatment.
Written by: Brindles Lee Macon and Elizabeth Boskey, PhD
Medically reviewed on: Feb 29, 2016: William A. Morrison MD
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