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  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:




Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa. A bursa is a thin sac that lies between bone and soft tissue. It can be found near some joints. A healthy bursa lets muscles and tendons move smoothly over bone. Bursitis is more common in the:

  • Shoulder
  • Elbow
  • Knee
  • Hip
Bursitis in the Shoulder.

Nucleus factsheet imagehttp://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=75577557si55550705.jpgsi55550705.jpgNULLjpgsi55550705.jpgNULL\\hgfiler01a\intellect\images\si55550705.jpgNULL26NULL2008-12-10254390Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Bursitis may be caused by:

  • Injury to an area that contains a bursa
  • Repetitive stress on the bursa
  • Infection in a bursa
  • Long periods of pressure on a joint, such as leaning on elbows, sitting, or kneeling on hard surfaces
  • Health problems that cause inflammation in joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Repetitive motions, such as swimming, running, or tennis
  • A job that requires:
    • Repetitive motions, such as hammering or painting
    • Long hours in one position, such as a kneeling to put down carpeting
  • Contact sports
  • Sporting gear that is too tight
  • A puncture or deep cut that involves the bursa


Bursitis can cause:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Reddened skin
  • Warmth around the area of the bursa
  • Problems moving the nearby joint
  • Problems moving or weakness of the nearby limb


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.


The goal of treatment is to ease pain and promote healing. Choices are:

  • Supportive care, such as resting the area and applying cold compresses
  • Medicines to ease pain and swelling, such as pain relievers or steroids
  • Physical therapy to promote strength, flexibility, and range of motion

People who are not helped by these methods may need surgery.


To lower the risk of this problem:

  • Exercise regularly to keep muscles strong
  • Slowly increase the intensity and duration of activities
  • Use the right safety gear and methods when playing sports
  • Use proper safety equipment at work
  • Take breaks from repetitive tasks




  • Bursitis. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center website. Available at: https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/arthritis-rheumatology/bursitis.
  • Elbow (olecranon) bursitis. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/elbow-olecranon-bursitis.
  • Hip bursitis. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/hip-bursitis.
  • Prepatellar bursitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/prepatellar-bursitis.
  • Sports injuries. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/bursitis.


  • Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.