Bursitis occurs when the fluid-filled sacs, called bursae sacs, become inflamed. These sacs help the joints of our body move smoothly and can be irritated from sudden injuries or constant pressure. An infection can also cause these bursae sacs to become inflamed from an injury to the hip, an infection of the tissue near the hip, or a blood-borne infection (which is rare).
The most common locations for bursitis are in the shoulder, elbow, and hip. But you can also have bursitis by your knee, heel and the base of your big toe. Bursitis often occurs near joints that perform frequent repetitive motion.
The most common causes of bursitis are repetitive motions or positions that put pressure on the bursae around a joint. Examples include:
- Throwing a baseball or lifting something over your head repeatedly
- Leaning on your elbows for long periods
- Extensive kneeling for tasks such as laying carpet or scrubbing floors
Other causes include injury or trauma to the affected area, inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and infection. Anyone can develop bursitis, but certain factors can increase your risk:
- Age. Bursitis becomes more common with aging.
- Occupations or hobbies. If your work or hobby requires repetitive motion or pressure on particular bursae, your risk of developing bursitis increases. Examples include carpet laying, tile setting, gardening, painting and playing a musical instrument.
- Other medical conditions. Certain systemic diseases and conditions — such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout and diabetes — increase your risk of developing bursitis. Being overweight can increase your risk of developing hip and knee bursitis.
- Pain, especially with movement of the hip joint
- Redness, warmth of the tissue, fever, or swollen lymph nodes
Treatment typically involves resting the affected joint and protecting it from further trauma. In most cases, bursitis pain goes away within a few weeks with proper treatment, but recurrent flare-ups of bursitis are common.
- Resting the injured area
- Physical therapy may also aid in the range-of-motion
- Avoiding any activity that may irritate the injured area
- Icing the area the day it is injured
- Draining the fluid that is causing the inflammation of the bursae sac
While not all types of bursitis can be prevented, you can reduce your risk and the severity of flare-ups by changing the way you do certain tasks. Examples include:
- Using kneeling pads. Use some type of padding to reduce the pressure on your knees if your job or hobby requires a lot of kneeling.
- Lifting properly. Bend your knees when you lift. Failing to do so puts extra stress on the bursae in your hips.
- Wheeling heavy loads. Carrying heavy loads puts stress on the bursae in your shoulders. Use a dolly or a wheeled cart instead.
- Taking frequent breaks. Alternate repetitive tasks with rest or other activities.
- Maintaining a healthy weight. Being overweight places more stress on your joints.
- Exercising. Strengthening your muscles can help protect your affected joint.
- Warming up and stretching before strenuous activities to protect your joints from injury.
Luke Lyons PT, DPT