Bursitis: What is it, Causes and Treatment

By Med-Fit Content Team  .  Last Updated Wednesday, 8th February 2023

What is Bursitis?

is a very painful condition that affects small fluid filled sacs, normally known as Bursae. The Bursae is the cushion of the bone, muscles and tendons that are very close to your joints. This painful condition occurs when the bursae becomes inflamed, this usually happens when the bursae is irritated by overuse or excessive pressure.

Bursitis is most common in 3 locations – the elbow, the hip and your shoulders - however this does not mean it can’t occur in other areas of the body, some other areas such as heel, knee and the base of the big toe.

This condition is more common in adults above the ages of 40 years old. High-risk activities such as carpentry, painting, scrubbing, golf, skiing and tennis can have repeated pressure on one area of your joint, too much repetitive pressure can cause bursitis. When you reach 40 years old or older, unless you have looked after your body considerably well, your tendons aren’t able to handle stress as well as they used to, less elastic and much easier to tear.

There are problems and conditions that can cause more stress on the joints or bone such as arthritis in a joint or even legs that are different lengths, this can all naturally cause bursitis.
Those who have had reactions to medication, stress or inflammation from another condition such as gout, rheumatoid arthritis or thyroid disorders may also have an increased risk of bursitis.

Bursitis Symptoms

When it comes to this condition, pain is usually the most common symptom and it may build up slowly to quite severe – this is usually the result of calcium deposits in the area.

You may notice:

  • Limited range of motion / Stiffness
  • Pain, especially when moving
  • Swelling
  • Redness around joint & muscles

Bursitis Causes

Bursitis is primarily cause by 2 different things: pressure and repetitive motions. If you’re throwing a rounders ball over and over, the chance of this individual suffering from bursitis is quite high.
Those spending too much time in a specific position that puts quite a bit of pressure on your joints or muscles such as crouching, can cause your joints to flare up.

Other activities that can lead to bursitis also include:

  • Gardening or raking
  • Painting
  • Very Poor Posture
  • Shoveling
  • Repetitive movement sports such as Tennis and Golf

How is Bursitis diagnosed?

Your physical therapist or doctor will ask you many questions regarding your pain, location and then do a physical examination.

Once they have completed the physical examination they may have enough information to give you a diagnosis, however if you have signs of an infection of a flare up, your physical examiner may recommend other forms of diagnosis, such as:

  • A blood test to check for possible signs of infection
  • If infected, a sample of the fluid from the bursae
  • MRI or Ultrasound imaging to test and detect swollen bursae
  • Last resort would be an X-ray to rule out any other possible conditions

What is Bursitis of the hip?

Bursitis of the hip is called Trochanteric Bursitis - an inflammation or swelling of an area of the hip called the greater trochanter. Hip pain usually happens when the bursa becomes irritated and inflamed.

Symptoms of Trochanteric Bursitis is the pain at the point of the hip and this pain usually extends to the outside of the thigh. The pain of this condition is usually described as intense and sharp, with the pain later becoming an ache and spreading across a large area of the hip.

Unfortunately, hip bursitis cannot always be avoided, however there are several things you can do to prevent inflammation from getting much worse, these include the following:

  • Lose weight if you really need to
  • Avoid repetitive activities that cause stress on your hips
  • Increase or maintain your strength and flexibility in your hip muscles.

What is Bursitis of the Knee?

Knee bursitis is very similar to hip bursitis with the inflammation happening in the knee joint this time round. Bursae are there to help reduce friction but also cushion your pressure points between your tendons, muscles, bones and skin near your knee joint.

Any of the bursae in your knee are susceptible to becoming inflamed and they most commonly occur over your kneecap or the inner side of the knee, located below the joint. The main problem with Knee Bursitis is that it can limit your mobility whilst causing you a fair bit of pain.

Knee Bursitis can usually be caused by many different things, such as:

  • A Direct Blow to the Knee
  • Infection of the Bursae
  • Overuse or Strenuous activity of the Knee
  • Other conditions creating issues on the knee - such as: Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis or perhaps Gout.

Signs and symptoms vary quite a bit, but it really depends on which bursae is affected and what was the real cause of the inflammation.

Generally speaking the affected area of the knee may feel quite tender, warm and swollen. You may also feel quite a bit of pain when you put pressure on it, when you move or even at times when you rest.

How to treat Bursitis

Bursitis can be treated in several different ways to help reduce your pain and swelling, some of the forms of treatment include:

  • Therapeutic Ultrasound Machines – Our 3 MHz Ultrasound Machine has been a favourable method for those who suffer from Bursitis. Many physical therapists may decide this could be the best way to treat your condition, providing heat to the deep structure of your body – the Ultrasound Machine helps improve the way the body heals and at times may speed up the process.
  • Rest – Don’t move or do too much that puts pressure on your body and allow it to heal.
  • Take Pain Killers – Painkillers should help reduce your pain.
  • ICE – Putting a ice pack around the affected area every 10 minutes at a time and repeat every hour or so can help reduce the swelling.
  • Steroid Injections – Usually recommended to those who have Hip Bursitis. This usually helps relieve the symptoms of the condition and can be an effective treatment done in your doctor’s office or hospital. The injection could provide temporary or permanent pain relief, however we advise you speak to your doctor before requesting this type of treatment