Bursitis is a painful condition that occurs when the small, fluid-filled sacs (or bursae) that cushion the bones, tendons, and muscles become inflamed due to overuse or excessive pressure. There are more than 150 bursae in the human body. The most common locations for bursitis are in the shoulder, elbow, and hip, but it can also develop in the knee, heel, and the base of the big toe. Bursitis often occurs near joints that perform frequent repetitive motion and can result from activities like throwing a baseball, leaning on the elbows for a sustained period, or kneeling for an extended time. The condition can be brought on by advanced age; occupations or hobbies that require repetitive movements like gardening, painting, and playing an instrument; other medical conditions like arthritis, gout, and diabetes; or injury and trauma. It can also be caused by a preexisting condition that allows the growth of crystals in the bursae, which lead to irritation and swelling.
In patients with bursitis, the affected joint may feel achy or stiff, hurt when pressure is applied or movement occurs, or looks swollen and red. Bursitis can be caused by an infection, leading to septic bursitis, which is very dangerous. Symptoms of this include fever, redness in the affected area, and a heat sensation coming from the affected area.
Diagnosis will include a medical history and physical exam, as well as imaging tests like X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasounds. Blood or fluid tests from the inflamed bursa may also be collected to determine the cause of joint inflammation and pain and to see if there is an infection. Often, the inflammation and swelling of a bursa create a visible bump that a doctor can also use to confirm diagnosis.
Treatment may include pain relievers, physical therapy, and corticosteroid injections to reduce the pain and inflammation. The doctor may also aspirate (or draw fluid from) a bursa with a needle and syringe to relieve uncomfortable pressure. If the condition does not improve after six months to a year, your doctor may recommend surgery to repair damage and relieve pressure.