Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Bursitis
Bursitis is a painful swelling of a small sac of fluid called a bursa. Bursae (plural of bursa) cushion and lubricate areas where tendons, ligaments, skin, muscles, or bones rub against each other. People who repeat the same movement over and over or who put continued pressure on a joint in their jobs, sports, or daily activities have a greater chance of getting bursitis.
Bursitis is commonly caused by:
Bursitis can also be caused by other problems, such as arthritis or infection (septic bursitis).
Bursitis usually causes a dull pain, tenderness, and stiffness near the affected bursa. The bursa may swell and make the skin around it red and warm to the touch.
Bursitis is most common in the shoulder, elbow, hip, and knee. Bursitis may also occur near the Achilles tendon or in the foot.
Symptoms of bursitis may be like those of tendinopathy. Both occur in the tissues in and around the joints.
Check with your doctor if your pain is severe, if the sore area becomes very hot or red, or if you have a fever.
Your doctor will check for bursitis by asking questions about your past health and recent activities and by examining the area.
If your symptoms are severe or get worse even after treatment, you may need other tests. Your doctor may drain fluid from the bursa through a needle (aspiration) and test it for infection. Or you may need X-rays, an MRI, or an ultrasound.
Home treatment is often enough to reduce pain and let the bursa heal. Your doctor may suggest physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around your joints.
If you have severe bursitis, your doctor may use a needle to remove extra fluid from the bursa. You might wear a pressure bandage on the area. Your doctor may also give you a shot of medicine to reduce swelling. Some people need surgery to drain or remove the bursa.
Sometimes the fluid in the bursa can get infected. If this happens, you may need antibiotics.
Bursitis is likely to improve in a few days or weeks if you rest and treat the affected area. But it may return if you don't stretch and strengthen the muscles around the joint and change the way you do some activities.
You may be able to prevent bursitis from happening or coming back.
Other Works Consulted
Colburn KK (2015). Bursitis, tendinitis, myofascial pain, and fibromyalgia. In ET Bope, RD Kellerman, eds., Conn's Current Therapy 2015, pp. 597–600. Philadelphia: Saunders.
McMahon PJ, et al. (2014). Sports medicine. In HB Skinner, PJ McMahon, eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment in Orthopedics, 5th ed., pp. 88–155. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Current as of: June 26, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineKenneth J. Koval, MD - Orthopedic Surgery, Orthopedic Trauma
Current as of:
June 26, 2019
Medical Review:William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Kenneth J. Koval, MD - Orthopedic Surgery, Orthopedic Trauma
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2019 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.