Bursitis: What is it and How to Treat it

By Jared Ernest Physical Therapist

What is Bursitis?

Bursitis is an inflammation or irritation of the bursa. A bursa is a fluid filled sac between tissues that reduces friction between tissues such as tendons, bones, muscles and skin. Often, mild trauma or repetitive stress to an area will cause bursitis. As the body ages, bursae can tolerate less stress and may be more prone to developing bursitis. Some activities that are at higher risk for developing bursitis include gardening, raking, carpentry, shoveling, painting, scrubbing, tennis, golf, throwing and pitching. Poor posture and I sufficient stretching prior to activity can lead to bursitis as well. The most common symptom of bursitis is pain.

Diagram showing the types of bursitis. JOI Rehab

Types of Bursitis


The pain may develop slowly or develop suddenly and become severe rather quickly. Bursitis can also lead to “adhesive capsulitis” or a frozen shoulder which is a severe loss of motion in the shoulder. Bursitis can be prevented with proper stretching prior to activity, avoiding activities that aggravate the pain, icing the affected area, protecting the area from further trauma and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatories.

Elbow or Olecranon Bursitis

The most common area for bursitis is the elbow.  The elbow is often bumped or bruised in one’s daily activities or it can be hurt easily in a fall. The official name for bursitis of the elbow is olecranon bursitis.  People often can make a bruise worse by leaning on their elbow or supporting themselves on their elbows.  The elbow can become swollen, warm to touch and red in appearance. The elbow would need to be protected from further irritation by wearing an elbow pad or sleeve. With treatment, the swelling should begin to go away in 1-2 weeks. You should seek medical intervention if the swelling does not decrease or if you have signs of an infection. Complications from this condition would be an infection or calcium deposits in the joint.


Hip Pain from Bursitis of the hip. JOI Rehab

Hip Pain could be result of Bursitis

Bursitis of the Hip

The hip is another area of the body which bursitis can develop. Hip bursitis can start with trauma or it can occur from excessive sitting or laying on the hip itself. It can also occur from repetitive activities which cause the IT Band to irritate the bursae of the hip joint. It is important to find the cause of the bursitis so prevention and treatment plans are appropriate.

Treatment Options 

Treatment for bursitis may include corticosteroid injections at the injured site to treat the inflammation at the source and alleviate the pain. In some cases, physical therapy will address weaknesses or inflexibility in the surrounding muscles.  Each of these can predispose the tendons to tendonitis. Physical Therapy could also include modalities such Ultrasound, Ice, Heat and Laser Treatments. JOI’s team of dedicated physicians, physical therapists, and athletic trainers are ready to help you get back to activity.

By: Jared Ernest, Physical Therapist 

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