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Bursitis

 

Definition

Bursitis is inflammation of the fluid-filled sac (bursa) that lies between a tendon and skin, or between a tendon and bone. The condition may be acute or chronic.

Causes

Bursae are fluid-filled cavities near joints where tendons or muscles pass over bony projections. They assist movement and reduce friction between moving parts.

Bursitis can be caused by chronic overuse, trauma, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, or infection. Sometimes the cause cannot be determined. Bursitis commonly occurs in the shoulder, knee, elbow, and hip. Other areas that may be affected include the Achilles tendon and the foot.

Chronic inflammation can occur with repeated injuries or attacks of bursitis.

Symptoms
Signs and tests

Support Groups

Expectations (prognosis)

The condition may respond well to treatment, or it may develop into a chronic condition if the underlying cause cannot be corrected.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if symptoms recur or do not improve after 2 weeks of treatment.

Complications
  • Chronic bursitis may occur.
  • Too many steroid injections over a short period of time can cause injury to the surrounding tendons.
Treatments

Your health care provider may recommend temporary rest or immobilization of the affected joint.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen may relieve pain and inflammation. Formal physical therapy may be helpful as well.

If the inflammation does not respond to the initial treatment, it may be necessary to draw out fluid from the bursa and inject corticosteroids. Surgery is rarely required.

Exercises for the affected area should be started as the pain resolves. If muscle atrophy (weakness or decrease in size) has occurred, your health care provider may suggest exercises to build strength and increase mobility.

Bursitis caused by infection is treated with antibiotics. Sometimes the infected bursa must be drained surgically.

Prevention

Avoid activities that include repetitive movements of any body parts whenever possible.

References

Biundo JJ. Bursitis, tendinitis, and other periarticular disorders, and sports medicine. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 284.


Review Date: 8/11/2008
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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