Encyclopedia

Bursitis

What is bursitis?

Bursitis is a painful swelling of the small peri-articular sacs that are filled with synovial fluid. These sacs are called bursae. The fluid in the bursae helps to reduce the friction force between the tendons, skin, bones and muscles. People who perform the same repetitive movements for a very long time are at greater risk of developing bursitis.

What are the symptoms of bursitis?

  • Dull pain, tenderness, stiffness near the affected bursa;
  • The bursa may become inflamed and the skin around it reddened and be warmer than the environment;
  • The bursae of the shoulder, knee, hip are most often swollen. Inflammation of the bursa is also possible near the Achilles heel.
  • Symptoms are very similar to tendinopathy. When it occurs in the tissues of and around the joints.
  • Consult your doctor if the pain is very severe and the affected area becomes red or much warmer than the surrounding skin.

What causes it?

  • Excessive repetition of the same type of movements. These can be everyday activities such as using tools, gardening, cooking, cleaning and typing.
  • Prolonged repetitive pressure on a specific area. For example, people who often have to work on their knees, such as gardeners, usually develop this inflammation.
  • As we age, bursae can become damaged.
  • Sudden trauma such as a blow to the elbow.

Bursitis can be caused by other conditions such as arthritis or an infection – septic bursitis.

Treatment of bursitis

Home treatment is quite enough to reduce the pain and heal the inflamed bursa. Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the joints.

  • Do not exert pressure on the affected area. Avoid any activities that could cause pain.
  • Apply ice or cold compresses as soon as you notice muscle pain near a joint. Keep the ice for about 10-15 minutes and apply it every 2 hours for 15 minutes for 3 days. You can try warm compresses or alternate between warm compresses and ice after the first 72 hours.
  • Use pain relievers – you can take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin to reduce pain and limit inflammation. Paracetamol can also relieve your pain. Don’t rely on pain relievers to stress the joint.
  • Exercise every day by moving the joint where the bursa is inflamed more often. This will prevent stiffness. When the pain subsides, you can start doing exercises to strengthen the muscles around the joints.
  • Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke to speed up the recovery of damaged tissues.
  • If the bursa is very swollen , your doctor may use a needle to remove excess fluid from it. You can wear a bandage that puts pressure on the bursa area. In some cases, surgery is needed to drain or remove the bursa.
  • Sometimes the synovial fluid in the bursa can become infected. If this happens, antibiotics may need to be prescribed.

How to protect yourself?

When the pain is gone and you are ready to start doing the repetitive motions again movements that caused the inflammation of the bursa. You should start doing them slowly and take frequent breaks. Warm up before you start and then stretch.

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