A healthy bursa is a thin jelly-like sac that forms a cushion in your joints where bones meet soft tissue – the muscles, tendons, or ligaments. Bursae minimise rubbing between these surfaces, making movement easier.
You have around 160 bursae in your body and any one of them can become inflamed. The joints that are most often affected are:
Bursitis happens when these cushions become enlarged (inflamed) for some reason.
The most common bursitis symptoms (or warning signs) are:
If the swelling doesn’t go away, your joint may become stiff – this can lead to muscle wastage.
See your doctor if your bursitis symptoms get worse or don’t improve after a couple of weeks.
Make an appointment if you:
It's important to get an accurate diagnosis for bursitis as symptoms may be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis or gout instead. Tests for bursitis include:
Causes may include:
However, in many cases, the cause of bursitis is unknown (idiopathic).
You can’t always prevent bursitis, but you can reduce the risk of a flare-up by:
Bursitis treatments include some simple things you can do yourself:
If the swelling doesn’t go away within a couple of weeks, arrange to see your GP.
Your GP may advise treatment with:
Bursitis treatment doesn’t usually include surgery.
In some cases a steroid injection may be given by your GP or at hospital. A steroid injection won’t cure the bursitis but should reduce inflammation and pain for a couple of months. Steroids can have side-effects so your doctor will discuss these with you and decide whether it's right for you.