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by EBSCO Medical Review Board


Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa. A bursa is a thin sac that lies between bone and soft tissue. It can be found near some joints. A healthy bursa lets muscles and tendons move smoothly over bone. Bursitis is more common in the:

  • Shoulder
  • Elbow
  • Knee
  • Hip
Bursitis in the Shoulder
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Bursitis may be caused by:

  • Injury to an area that contains a bursa
  • Repetitive stress on the bursa
  • Infection in a bursa
  • Long periods of pressure on a joint, such as leaning on elbows, sitting, or kneeling on hard surfaces
  • Health problems that cause inflammation in joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Repetitive motions, such as swimming, running, or tennis
  • A job that requires:
    • Repetitive motions, such as hammering or painting
    • Long hours in one position, such as a kneeling to put down carpeting
  • Contact sports
  • Sporting gear that is too tight
  • A puncture or deep cut that involves the bursa


Bursitis can cause:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Reddened skin
  • Warmth around the area of the bursa
  • Decreased motion of the nearby joint
  • Decreased movement or strength of the nearby limb


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.


The goal of treatment is to ease pain and promote healing. Choices are:

  • Supportive care, such as resting the area and applying cold compresses
  • Medicines to ease pain and swelling, such as:
    • Over the counter pain medicine
    • Steroids
  • Physical therapy to promote strength, flexibility, and range of motion

People who are not helped by these methods may need surgery.


To lower the risk of this problem:

  • Exercise regularly to keep muscles strong
  • Slowly increase the intensity and duration of activities
  • Use the right safety gear and techniques when playing sports
  • Use proper safety equipment at work
  • Take breaks from repetitive tasks


Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians 

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 


Canadian Association of General Surgeons 

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation 


Bursitis. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center website. Available at: Accessed January 29, 2021.

Bursitis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: Accessed January 29, 2021.

Elbow (olecranon) bursitis. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: Accessed January 29, 2021.

Hip bursitis. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: Accessed January 29, 2021.

Prepatellar bursitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed January 29, 2021.

Reid CR, Bush PM, et al. A review of occupational knee disorders. J Occup Rehabil. 2010 Dec;20(4):489-501.

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