What Is Bursitis?

A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that helps cushion the muscles, tendons, and bones in a joint. When a bursa becomes inflamed, it’s called bursitis. Common symptoms of bursitis include pain, tenderness, and swelling that limits movement of the joint.

What Causes Bursitis?

Bursitis is most often caused by overuse of a joint. The repeated movements irritate the bursa and cause it to swell. When that happens, other tissues in the joint have less space to move. Bursitis is most common in large joints such as the knee, shoulder, and hip.

Inflamed bursa in kneeNormal bursa in knee

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Nonsurgical treatment involves both rest and exercise.

How is Bursitis Treated?

To help reduce pain and swelling, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following: 

  • Rest gives the bursa time to heal. This means limiting activities that put stress on the joint.

  • Anti-inflammatorymedications help reduce painful swelling. In some cases, this can include injections of cortisone into the joint.

  • Splintsandsupportbandages improve your comfort and allow the bursa to heal.

  • Physicaltherapy may be used to increase flexibility and strengthen muscles that support the joint.

  • Aspiration removes excess fluid from the joint using a needle.

  • Surgery can be used to remove an inflamed bursa. This is rarely needed.

Online Medical Reviewer: Louise Akin, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith, RN, MSN, FNP, CCRC
Last Review Date: 3/14/2012
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