Bursitis is basically a painful condition which affects small fluid-filled sacs called bursae. These sacs generally cushion muscles, tendons & bones near joints. Bursitis is found to occur when bursae become inflamed. Most common locations where bursitis occurs include hip, elbow & shoulder. But there are other places as well where bursitis occurs. These include heel, knee & base of the big toe. Bursitis most often occurs near to joints which generally perform frequent repetitive motion. Treatment for bursitis typically involves resting the affected joint section & generally protecting it from any further trauma. However, in most cases pain which is associated with bursitis usually goes away within a few weeks time with proper treatment, but recurrence of flare-ups are also very common.
Signs & Symptoms of Bursitis
When a person is having bursitis, the affected joint may experience the following.
- Feel stiff or achy
- Hurt more when it is moved or pressed
- Appear red & swollen
Time to Consult a Doctor for Bursitis
It would be sensible to consult a doctor when the following symptoms are noticed.
- Joint pain which is disabling
- Pain which has lasted for 1 – 2 weeks
- Excessive bruising, redness, swelling or rashes in affected areas
- Shooting or sharp pain, especially when the patient is exerting or exercising
Causes of Bursitis
Common causes of bursitis include repetitive positions or motions which irritate bursae around joints, Good examples include the following.
- Repeatedly lifting something over the head
- Throwing a baseball
- Leaning on elbows for long periods of time
- Extensive kneeling for tasks like scrubbing floors or laying carpets
- Prolonged sitting sessions, especially on hard surfaces
Other causes of bursitis generally include injury or trauma to affected areas, gout, infection or inflammatory arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis.
Risk Factors Associated with Bursitis
Although any person can get bursitis, certain factors are found to increase risk of developing one.
- Age – Occurrence of bursitis becomes more common among people with aging.
- Hobbies or Occupational Factors – When hobby or work requires pressure or repetitive motion on particular bursae will eventually increase risk of developing bursitis. Best examples of such work include painting, gardening, tile setting, laying carpets or playing musical instruments.
- Other Medical Conditions – These include certain systemic diseases & conditions like diabetes, gout & rheumatoid arthritis which increase the person’s risk of developing bursitis.
Preparing for Initial Appointment with Doctors Concerning Bursitis
Most bursitis patients would initially bring these concerns to the family physician. The family physician may subsequently refer them to a doctor specializing in disorders of joints, which usually is a rheumatologist.
- What Patients Should be Doing
Patients can make a list which includes the following.
- Detailed descriptions of signs & symptoms.
- All information about medical problems which the patient is having.
- Information about medical problems of siblings or parents.
- All medications & dietary supplements which the patient is presently consuming.
- Questions which patients would want to ask doctors
Some basic questions which patients would like to ask doctors include the following.
- What is the most likely cause of my signs & symptoms?
- Are there any other causes involved as well?
- Will I need to undergo tests for diagnosis?
- Which treatment approach do you recommend?
- Since I am having other medical problems, how best can I manage these together?
- Am I required to limit my activities?
- Can I try some self-care measures for relief?
- Are you having any brochures or other printed materials on bursitis that I can take with me?
- Which websites would you recommend I refer to for further information on the subject?
- Questions Which Doctors Usually Ask Patients
Doctors would conduct a physical examination which will find them pressing on various spots around affected joints in order to determine whether any specific bursa is causing any pain. Doctors may also ask the following questions to patients during the initial appointment for bursitis.
- When did your pain first begin?
- Did pain come on suddenly or gradually?
- Which hobbies or recreational activities are you involved in?
- Are there certain activities like kneeling or climbing stairs, when you find pain to occur or worsen?
- Which type of work do you do?
- Did you recently take a fall or had some injury?
- Which treatments have you already tried?
- How did these treatment effect you condition?
Tests & Diagnosis for Bursitis
Quite often doctors can diagnose bursitis based upon the medical history & physical examination of patients. In case further tests are required, patients may have to undergo following tests.
- Imaging Tests – X-ray images alone will not be able to establish positive diagnosis of bursitis. However, they can help in excluding other causes of discomfort experienced by patients. MRI or ultrasound may be additionally performed when it is difficult to diagnose bursitis by a physical examination alone.
- Laboratory Tests – Doctors may often ask to perform blood tests or analysis of fluid which would be extracted from the inflamed bursa in order to pinpoint the exact cause of pain & joint inflammation.
Treatment & Drugs for Bursitis
Treatment for bursitis usually involves conservative measures like rest, application of ice packs and/or taking pain relievers. When conservative measures fail to work, treatment may then include the following.
- Medications – In case inflammation in bursa is caused by an infection, doctors may prescribe an antibiotic for treatment.
- Therapy – Doctors generally recommend exercises or physical therapy in order to strengthen muscles within the affected area so as to ease pain & prevent recurrence.
- Injections – Doctors may also inject a corticosteroid drug into bursa in order to relieve inflammation within the shoulder or hip joints. This type of treatment normally brings rapid pain relief & in several cases one such injection is all that is required.
- Assistive Devices – Temporary usage of walking canes or other assistive devices can help relieve pressure from bursitis affected areas.
- Surgery – Quite often an inflamed bursa needs to be surgically drained. However, surgical removal of affected bursa is rarely necessary.
Lifestyle Changes & Home Remedies for Bursitis
Following is a list of measures which patients can take to relieve pain from bursitis.
- Rest & immobilizations to affected areas.
- Application of ice so as to reduce swelling.
- Taking over-the-counter medications like naproxen sodium (Aleve) & ibuprofen (Motrin IB, Advil) for relieving pain & reducing inflammation.
- Cushioning knees while sleeping on sides by placing a small pillow between legs.
- Avoid pressure on elbows by not placing or leaning weight on elbows while rising from a lying position.
Although not all types of bursitis can be prevented, patients can however reduce risk & severity of flare-ups by altering the way to perform certain tasks. Some good examples include the following.
- Using Pads While Kneeling – Some types of padding can be very useful in reducing pressure on knees whenever a job or certain hobbies require plenty of kneeling.
- Proper Lifting of Weights – People must bend knees while lifting. Failing to do this will put extra stress on bursae around the hip joint.
- Wheeling Heavy Loads – Carrying extra load will put stress on bursae around the shoulder joints. Instead it would be sensible to use a dolly or a wheeled cart.
- Taking Frequent Breaks – It would be ideal to alternate repetitive tasks with rest or other type of activities.
- Walking Around – People must try not to sit in a single position for too long, especially upon hard surfaces, as this would put pressure on bursae in hips & buttocks.
- Maintaining Healthy Body Weight – Being overweight would simply put more stress upon the joints.
- Exercising – People must especially perform those exercises which will strengthen muscles & help protect affected joints.
- Warm Ups & Stretching – This would be a good idea for people before performing strenuous activities. This would eventually protect joints from injuries.
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