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Understanding Bursitis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

A male athlete having difficulty in straightening or bending the knee because of bursitis

Understanding Bursitis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

What is Bursitis?

Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursae, which are fluid-filled sacs located throughout the body, typically near joints such as the shoulder, elbow, hip, and knee. These sacs act as cushions that reduce friction between bones, tendons, and muscles during movement.

It may be useful to think of the bursa as Ziplock bags with a small amount of oil and no air inside.  Imagine rubbing this bag between your hands; the movement of your hands would be smooth and effortless. That is how a bursa functions– as a smooth slippery surface between two moving objects.  

When the bursae become irritated or inflamed, it can result in pain and discomfort.

Symptoms of Bursitis

The symptoms of bursitis can vary depending on the affected joint, but common signs include:

  1. Pain: persistent pain around the affected joint is the main symptom of bursitis. This pain often worsens with movement or pressure.
  2. Swelling: inflammation of the bursae may lead to noticeable swelling around the joint.
  3. Limited Range of Motion: bursitis can restrict the normal range of motion in the affected joint, making it difficult to perform everyday activities.

Causes of Bursitis

Bursitis can be caused by various factors, including:

  1. Repetitive Movements: activities that involve repetitive motions or prolonged pressure on a particular joint can contribute to bursitis. This is common in occupations or hobbies that require frequent, repetitive movements.
  2. Joint Overuse: overusing a joint through excessive physical activity or exercise can lead to bursitis.
  3. Trauma or Injury: direct trauma or injury to a joint can cause inflammation of the bursae.
  4. Arthritis
  5. Leg-Length Inequalities

Treatment Options

Managing bursitis usually involves a combination of conservative treatments which our practitioners will prescribe depending upon the severity of a patient’s symptoms.

These treatments may include:

  1. Manual Therapy: this involves a hands-on treatment by our practitioners which may include ultrasounds, friction massage, mobilisation, and manipulation.
  2. Rest: giving the affected joint adequate time to rest and heal is crucial to recovery.
  3. Ice Therapy: ice decreases the size of the blood vessels in the sore area, halting inflammation and relieving pain. Choices of application include cold packs, ice bags, or ice massage.
  4. Anti-Inflammatory Medications: anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be recommended, in consultation with a pharmacist, to reduce pain and inflammation.
  5. Exercises: exercise plans may be required to strengthen and improve the flexibility of the affected joint to promote healing.
  6. Laser therapy may also help.

In severe cases, surgical intervention may be considered to remove the inflamed bursa or address underlying issues. However, with proper care, attention, and collaboration between practitioner and patient, most cases of bursitis can be successfully managed, allowing individuals to regain mobility and return to their normal lives.


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