What is Bursitis?

what is bursitis

When a physician gives you a diagnosis in medical terms you may not totally understand what it means and how it is actually impacting your health unless you work in the medical field, your hobby is researching medical conditions, or have studied Latin. With doctors offices being so busy, they may not go over your diagnosis in layman's terms leaving you overwhelmed and confused. Then, when your friends, family, or physical therapist ask you what the doctor said, your response may go something like, “it’s some sort of “itis” in this part of my body.” Sound familiar?

If you’ve been o the doctor recently, were diagnosed with bursitis, and are confused what exactly that means, we are here to break it down for you. Learn what bursitis is, the symptoms you may experience, and how bursitis is treated.

What is the bursa?

Between the tissues of the body (such as bone, skin, muscles, and tendons) there are fluid-filled sacs called bursae. The fluid within each bursa is called synovial fluid. It’s appearance is similar to that of an egg white. The bursa sacs act as a buffer between surfaces, preventing friction, rubbing, and irritation.

The average adult has 160 bursae within their body, varying in size. The size of a bursa depends on the location and the individual. Everyone is born with bursae and over their lifetime, they may develop more. Repetitive friction causes the body to create bursae to help the body move smoothly.

What is bursitis?

When bursae become inflamed, bursitis occurs. Any bursa within the body can become irritated and inflamed, but certain places are more likely to develop bursitis.

Bursitis most commonly occurs in the hips, buttocks, ankles, knees, shoulders, elbows, or thighs. When bursitis forms in certain body parts, it can be referred to as a more common name than bursitis. For example, bursitis of the elbow is commonly referred to as “tennis elbow.”

What causes bursitis?

causes of bursitis

As with any injury or condition, certain things may increase your chances of developing bursitis. Most commonly, bursitis is caused by repetitive movements or positions that put pressure on the bursae. Actions such as kneeling for an extended amount of time (think scrubbing the floors or being a baseball catcher), throwing a ball (think of a baseball pitcher), sitting on a hard surface, or running consistently can all cause bursitis.

Bursae near the surface of skin that become infected may also cause bursitis. Although most healthy individuals can fight off the bacteria that enters the skin, those with a weakened immune system have a higher risk of infection and thus bursitis. An individual who is actively, or has recently received chemotherapy, radiation, taking steroids for a pre-existing condition, has diabetes, or HIV/AIDS, all have a higher risk due to their depressed immune systems.

Additionally, certain health conditions that cause crystals to form in the bursa are likely to develop bursitis. When crystals form within the bursae, the bursae becomes irritated and swells leading to bursitis. Those who have been diagnosed with gout, arthritis, or scleroderma also have a higher chance of developing bursitis.

Symptoms of bursitis

knee pain

The signs and symptoms of bursitis can be similar to the signs and symptoms other conditions. If you experience any of the following, it is important to consult with a medical professional.

  • Pain - with or without movement

  • Tenderness

  • Swelling

  • Loss of movement or inability to move a joint

  • Fever

  • Warmth to the touch

  • Feeling of being achy or stiff

How is bursitis treated?

There are several different options for treatment of bursitis. Some of these options are:

  • Rest. Although, this may be difficult, depending on your job, or hobbies, it may be necessary to rest the affected area.

  • Ice packs. Ice packs can help to reduce the pain, swelling, and inflammation that bursitis causes. Remember, don’t ice for more than 15 minutes at a time.

  • Physical therapy. In physical therapy, you will learn proper movement and receive manual therapy to help reduce inflammation, and ice.

  • Antibiotics. If your doctor decides to run a fluid test and discovers a bacterial infection, you may be on a course of antibiotics.

  • Steroid injections. If you visit your doctor, he may suggest a steroid injection that would help to reduce the inflammation. For example, Prostaglandin is a chemical in the body that causes inflammation and the steroid injection blocks it.

Bursitis is rather common! If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, we highly recommend you visit your doctor, or a local physical therapist who can help you overcome bursitis.

If you have any questions or need more information about bursitis, feel free to contact us.






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