Bursitis: Symptoms and Treatment

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Bursitis is a medical condition that affects the space between your joints. It occurs when the cushions between your joints, called bursae, become inflamed and swollen. In total, your body has more than 150 bursae, and they’re designed to help decrease friction between your joints, muscles, bones, and tendons. The bursa itself is a thin sac containing a small amount of synovial fluid, which is similar in consistency to an egg white. However, when a bursa becomes inflamed and bursitis develops, the inflammation may impair movement or cause pain and swelling in and around the area.

Risk Factors for Bursitis

There are a few factors that may indicate whether you’re at an increased risk of developing bursitis, including the following:

Causes of Bursitis

One of the most common causes of bursitis relates to injuries from repetitive overuse or prolonged pressure applied to a bursa or bursae. Bursitis may also develop because of other acute injuries or systematic inflammatory medical conditions, such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis.

Septic bursitis, a more serious form of bursitis, results from an infection. For example, if you have a puncture wound and bacteria enters your body from the wound, it may spread to other soft tissues and result in septic bursitis.

Symptoms of Bursitis

Bursitis has many different symptoms that vary depending on the seriousness of your condition. Common symptoms include pain, stiffness, warmth, and swelling in and around the affected bursa. Usually, the pain worsens during or after physical activity, and stiffness is more common in the morning.

If you have septic bursitis, you may also have the following symptoms:

  • High Fever
  • Chills
  • Generalized Joint Pain
  • Muscle Aches

Diagnosis of Bursitis

If you think you may have bursitis, schedule an appointment with your doctor. During your appointment, your doctor may perform a physical exam and run through your medical history while making a diagnosis. Additionally, they may recommend the following additional testing:

  • Lab Tests, Including Blood Tests or Fluid Analysis from Inflamed Bursa
  • Imaging Tests, Including X-rays, Ultrasounds, and MRIs

Additionally, if your doctor suspects you may have septic bursitis, they may take a sample of synovial fluid for further examination.

Treatment of Bursitis

Fortunately, in most cases, bursitis clears up on its own and is often treated with simple measures, like ice packs and over-the-counter pain relievers. However, if your condition is more severe, your doctor may recommend the following treatment options:

  • Antibiotics
  • Physical Therapy
  • Corticosteroid Drug Injections
  • Walking Canes and Other Assistive Devices to Alleviate Pain
  • Surgery

Prognosis of Bursitis

In most cases, the outlook for bursitis is good. With simple lifestyle adjustments and effective treatment options, most patients see their bursitis clear up with time.

Complications of Bursitis

If left untreated or if your bursitis is more severe, it may become infected and morph into septic bursitis. If this happens, you may experience complications that could result in permanent joint damage, sepsis, or osteomyelitis, otherwise known as a bone infection.