Bursitis is a painful swelling, usually around your joints. It’s common in the shoulders, elbows, knees and feet. You’re more likely to get it if you have a job or hobby that puts a lot of stress on your joints.
Bursitis is painful swelling in a small, fluid-filled sac called a bursa. Bursae (the plural of bursa) cushion spaces around bones and other tissue. They’re like bubble wrap that protects structures throughout your body. Bursae cushion the spaces between bones and your:
Bursitis happens when a bursa becomes irritated and swells. The most common causes of bursitis are overuse and putting too much pressure on a bursa. The pain from an inflamed bursa may develop suddenly or build up over time.
There are more than 150 bursae in your body. Bursitis can affect any of them. You’re most likely to develop bursitis in joints you use for repetitive motions or in places you put a lot of pressure, including your:
Healthcare providers might refer to different types of bursitis with a specific name, but they’re all the same issue — swelling in and around a bursa.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
The most common symptoms of bursitis are:
If you have an infection that’s causing bursitis, you might have other symptoms, including:
Repetitive motions — like a pitcher throwing a baseball or lifting heavy boxes at work — commonly cause bursitis. Spending time in positions that put pressure on a specific part of your body (such as kneeling) can cause it, too.
It’s less common, but injuries and infections can cause bursitis, as well.
Activities that can lead to bursitis include:
Anyone can experience bursitis. People who are more likely to develop it include:
People with certain health conditions have a higher risk of bursitis, including:
A healthcare provider will diagnose bursitis with a physical exam. They’ll ask you about your symptoms and examine the area around your affected body part. Tell your provider what you were doing before you noticed symptoms for the first time and if your job or a hobby requires you to do a repetitive motion.
Your provider might use some tests to diagnose bursitis, including:
Usually, rest is all you’ll need to treat bursitis. Avoid the activity or positions that irritated your bursa.
Taking a break from activities that put pressure on that part of your body will give it time to heal and prevent further injury. Ask your provider how long you’ll need to rest and avoid physical activities.
Your provider might suggest at-home treatments to reduce the pain and swelling while your bursa heals:
Most cases of bursitis heal on their own with rest and at-home treatments. But your provider may recommend additional treatment options, including:
The best way to prevent bursitis is to avoid overusing your body. To prevent bursitis:
Bursitis is usually short-lived. Most people heal within a few weeks. Follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations and don’t resume physical activities before your bursa has healed. Even if your pain improves, putting pressure or stress on your bursa before it’s completely healed increases your risk of reinjuring it.
If a repetitive motion that’s part of your job or studies causes bursitis, you might need to miss work or school while you’re recovering. Tell your provider about your usual routine and they’ll explain which parts of it you need to modify or take a break from while you’re resting your injured bursa.
The longer you put pressure or additional stress on an injured bursa, the longer it’ll take to recover. It also increases your risk of chronic bursitis (bursitis that comes and goes in the same area).
You can get bursitis more than once in the same area. When you have repeated bursitis episodes, it’s considered a chronic (long-lasting) condition. Bursitis may come and go. The same kind of irritation that caused the original inflammation can trigger a new episode. Repeated flare-ups may damage the bursa and reduce your mobility in that joint.
Visit a healthcare provider if you have any of the following symptoms:
Arthritis and bursitis both affect your joints. Bursitis is usually a short-term issue that’s caused by overusing or putting excess stress on a bursa around one of your joints. It doesn’t create long-lasting damage unless you continue to stress the area.
Arthritis happens when cartilage in a joint breaks down over time. Arthritis is usually a long-term condition that you’ll need to manage for the rest of your life.
Bursitis and tendinitis are both painful conditions that happen when tissue in your body is irritated and swells. Bursitis is inflammation in one or more of your bursae.
Doing a repetitive activity can cause both bursitis and tendinitis — like doing the same motion for a sport, or using the same part of your body for physical work frequently.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Bursitis is painful, and it can be frustrating to learn your job or hobby you love caused an injury inside your body. The good news is that bursitis is usually preventable. The first step is figuring out which movements caused the irritation.
Your healthcare provider will help you find treatments that let your injured bursae heal and solutions to prevent bursitis in the future. Don’t rush your recovery — rest for as long as your provider suggests. It might be annoying to skip sports or an activity that you’re used to doing every day, but it’s important to give your body all the time it needs to heal.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/07/2023.
Learn more about our editorial process.