Bursitis: Types, Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Bursitis is an often overlooked but common condition causing pain and discomfort in various joints in the body. Bursae, small, liquid-filled sacs, cushion and lubricate areas where tissues, such as muscles, tendons, and skin, rub against each other. Bursitis occurs when these sacs become inflamed, leading to symptoms like pain, swelling, and loss of function. This article delves into the different types of bursitis, their causes, treatment options, and preventative measures to help you understand this condition better.

What is Bursitis?

Bursitis is a condition characterized by the inflammation of one or more bursae, which are found throughout the body in areas where friction occurs between bones and soft tissues. Under normal circumstances, these sacs act as shock absorbers and reduce rubbing and pressure on joints. However, when they become irritated or infected, they can cause pain and stiffness in the affected area.

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Types of Bursitis

The most common types of bursitis are:

  • Prepatellar: affecting the knee
  • Olecranon: affecting the elbow
  • Trochanteric: affecting the hip
  • Subacromial: affecting the shoulder

Other less common types include retrocalcaneal, infrapatellar, and pes anserine bursitis.


Bursitis can stem from various factors, including:

  • Overuse: repetitive movements can put pressure on the bursae and lead to inflammation.
  • Injury: a direct blow or fall can cause trauma to the affected area and result in bursitis.
  • Infection: bacteria or fungi entering the body through cuts or wounds can cause infection in the bursae.
  • Certain medical conditions: like rheumatoid arthritis and gout, can heighten the likelihood of developing bursitis.
  • Age: as we age, our tendons become less elastic, making them more prone to inflammation and injury.


  • Pain: the most common symptom of bursitis is pain in the affected area, which can range from mild discomfort to severe and sharp pain.
  • Swelling: inflammation causes excess fluid accumulation in the bursae, leading to swelling or a visible lump.
  • Stiffness: movement of the affected area may become limited due to stiffness.
  • Redness and warmth: the skin over the affected area may appear red and feel warm to the touch.
  • Difficulty moving: Depending on the location of the bursitis, movement of the affected joint may be challenging and painful.
  • Fever: In cases where the bursitis is caused by an infection, a fever may also be present.


The appropriate course of treatment for bursitis varies based on the severity and underlying cause of the condition. Some common treatment options include:

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  • Rest: avoiding activities that aggravate the affected area can help alleviate symptoms.
  • Ice therapy: applying ice packs or bags of frozen vegetables to the inflamed area can reduce pain and swelling.
  • Medications: over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can provide relief from pain and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy: targeted exercises can help strengthen the muscles around the affected area, reducing pressure on the bursae.

In severe cases, a doctor may also prescribe corticosteroid injections or recommend surgery to drain or remove the inflamed bursae.


While not all cases of bursitis can prevented, there are steps one can take to reduce the risk of developing it, such as:

  • Avoiding repetitive movements: if your job or hobby involves repetitive motions, be sure to take frequent breaks and vary your movements.
  • Warming up and stretching: before engaging in physical activities, warm-up exercises and stretches can help prevent injury.
  • Using proper techniques: whether at work or in sports, using proper techniques can help avoid putting unnecessary strain on your joints.
  • Wearing protective gear: if engaging in activities that involve potential impact or falls, wearing protective gear, such as knee pads and elbow pads, can help prevent bursitis.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can bursitis go away on its own?

Mild cases of bursitis may improve with rest and self-care, but more severe cases may require medical treatment.

Is bursitis a chronic condition?

Bursitis can become chronic if the underlying cause not addressed or if proper precautions are not taken to prevent it.

Can bursitis be contagious?

No, bursitis is not contagious. It caused by inflammation of the bursae, not an infectious agent.


Bursitis is a frequently encountered condition that can lead to discomfort and hinder your day-to-day activities.. By understanding its causes and risk factors, you can take preventative measures to reduce your chances of developing it. If you experience symptoms of bursitis, seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment. With the right care and precautions, you can manage or even prevent bursitis from impacting your quality of life. So, stay informed and take care of your joints to keep them healthy and pain-free! So, keep moving, but remember to listen to your body and give it the rest it needs. Your joints will thank you for it!

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This site provides educational information only. It is important not to depend on any content here in place of professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Similarly, it should not replace professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any health concerns or questions, always seek guidance from a physician or another healthcare professional.