What is bursitis?

Bursitis is the painful swelling of a small, fluid-filled sac called a bursa. These sacs cushion areas where bone would otherwise rub on muscle, tendons or skin. By padding these areas, bursae (plural for bursa) decrease friction, rubbing and inflammation. Although you have bursae throughout your body, bursitis most often occurs around the joints.

Bursitis happens when a bursa becomes irritated by overuse or excess pressure. The pain from an inflamed bursa may be sudden or build up over time.

Where does bursitis occur?

There are more than 150 bursae located in your body. You’re most likely to develop bursitis in joints you use over and over in the same way or in places you put a lot of pressure such as:

  • Shoulders (subacromial bursitis).
  • Elbows (olecranon bursitis, sometimes called miner’s or barfly’s elbow).
  • Knees (prepatellar bursitis or housemaid’s knee).
  • Feet (name varies depending on location, commonly in the big toe, heel or ball of the foot).
  • Hips (iliopectineal or trochanteric bursitis).
  • Buttocks (ischial bursitis or weaver’s bottom).

What’s the difference between arthritis and bursitis?

Arthritis and bursitis both affect the joints. But arthritis usually results from normal wear and tear on the cartilage, the smooth lining at the ends of bones. The damage is permanent.

In most cases, bursitis is short-term irritation. It doesn’t create long-lasting damage unless you continue to stress the area.

What’s the difference between tendinitis and bursitis?

Overusing one part of your body – like a baseball pitcher’s arm – can lead to tendinitis or bursitis. Tendinitis is irritation of the tendon, a cord-like tissue that secures muscles to bones. Bursitis is inflammation of the bursa.

You may have both conditions at the same time or one or the other. Your healthcare provider can tell which one you have by the location of your pain or by viewing imaging tests.

Who gets bursitis?

The main risk factors for bursitis include:

What causes bursitis?

Repetitive motions, such as a pitcher throwing a baseball over and over, commonly cause bursitis. Also, spending time in positions that put pressure on part of your body, such as kneeling, can cause a flare-up. Occasionally, a sudden injury or infection can cause bursitis.

Activities that can lead to bursitis include:

  • Carpentry.
  • Gardening and raking.
  • Painting.
  • Poor posture or a poorly positioned joint or bone (due to different leg lengths, bone spurs, or arthritis in a joint).
  • Scrubbing.
  • Shoveling.
  • Sports like tennis, golf and baseball.

What are the symptoms of bursitis?

Around muscles, bones and particularly joints, you may notice:

  • Pain, especially during movement.
  • Limited range of motion.
  • Swelling.
  • Redness, warmth, fever and chills, if you have an infection.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/29/2020.

References

  • American College of Rheumatology. Tendinitis (Bursitis). Accessed 6/1/2020.
  • Arthritis Foundation. Bursitis. Accessed 6/1/2020.
  • FamilyDoctor.org/American Academy of Family Physicians. Bursitis of the Hip. Accessed 6/1/2020.
  • Merck Manual. Bursitis. Accessed 6/1/2020.
  • National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Bursitis. Accessed 6/1/2020.

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