Bursitis is a condition in which there is inflammation of a bursa. A bursa is a jelly-like sac that serves as a cushion to reduce friction between bones and soft tissues of the body. Bursae (plural of bursa) are located throughout the body near joints such as the hips, knees, shoulders, elbows and heels.

Bursitis can be chronic (long-term), involving repeated flare-ups of pain, swelling and tenderness. While these attacks are usually temporary, over time they may lead to muscle deterioration and reduced range of motion in the affected joint.

An inflamed bursa is usually due to injury or overuse, but infection may also cause it. It is most common in women and in middle-aged and older adults.

While bursitis can occur in any bursa in the body, some of the most frequently diagnosed types of this condition include:

  • Retromalleolar tendon bursitis: Also called Albert disease, this type of bursitis affects the bursa located where the Achilles tendon connects the calf muscle to the back of the heel
  • Posterior Achilles tendon bursitis: This type of bursitis, also called Haglund deformity, affects the bursa located between the skin of the heel and the Achilles tendon
  • Hip bursitis: Two major bursae in the hip can become irritated and inflamed:
    • The greater trochanter covers the bony point of the hip bone; inflammation of this bursa is called trochanteric bursitis
    • The iliopsoas bursa is located on the groin side of the hip; when this bursa becomes inflamed, the condition may be called hip bursitis, but pain is felt in the groin area
  • Elbow bursitis: Elbow bursitis is caused by the inflammation of the olecranon bursa located between the skin and bones of the elbow
  • Knee bursitis: Bursitis in the knee is also called goosefoot bursitis or pes anserine bursitis; the pes anserine bursa is located between the shin bone and the three tendons of the hamstring muscles, on the inside of the knee
  • Kneecap bursitis: Also called prepatellar bursitis, this type of bursitis often occurs in people who are on their knees a lot, such as carpet layers and plumbers

Because bursitis symptoms can resemble other medical conditions, it’s important to see a rheumatology specialist for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Why Choose Cooper to Diagnose and Treat Bursitis

Cooper has a respected team of five board-certified and fellowship-trained rheumatologists. They also serve as faculty at Cooper Medical School at Rowan University, and train medical residents as well as rheumatology fellows—testament to the high level of advanced expertise available here. Count on us for:

  • The latest knowledge about bursitis treatments, including the most effective medications
  • A multidisciplinary team approach to care, ensuring that all the specialists you may need are involved in your care
  • Personalized treatment based on your symptoms, general health, age and how severe your bursitis is

Bursitis Causes and Risk Factors

The most common causes of bursitis are injury or repetitive stress (overuse). Infection may also cause bursitis.

These risk factors are associated with bursitis:

  • Age: Bursitis is more common in middle-aged and elderly people
  • Gender: Bursitis is more frequently diagnosed in women than man
  • Spine disease: Scoliosis, arthritis of the lower spine and other spine problems can lead to hip bursitis
  • Certain types of arthritis: Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and gout can make bursae more prone to inflammation
  • Different leg lengths: Having one leg significantly shorter than the other can lead to irritation of a hip bursa
  • Previous surgery: Surgery around a joint or prosthetic implants can irritate the bursa, causing bursitis
  • Bone spurs or calcium deposits: These can irritate the bursa and cause inflammation

Symptoms of Bursitis

While each person may experience symptoms differently, these are the most common symptoms of this condition:

  • Pain in the affected joint area
  • Tenderness in the affected area
  • Limited range of motion
  • Swelling and redness if the bursa is near the skin surface

Bursitis may be chronic (long-term), causing repeated flare-ups of these symptoms. Over time, this may lead to muscle deterioration and more permanently limit range of motion in the affected joint. It generally does not cause deformity.

Treating Bursitis

Bursitis is typically treated with conservative (nonsurgical) measures:

  • Rest and activity modification: Avoid activities that make symptoms worse and allow the painful area to heal
  • Pain relief: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation
  • Physical therapy: Special targeted exercises can help maintain strength, flexibility and range of motion; massage, ice/heat, and/or ultrasound therapy may also be helpful
  • Corticosteroid injection: An injection into the affected bursa may help relieve symptoms temporarily or permanently
  • Assistive devices: These can include foot orthotics, a walking cane or crutches, or splints or braces

Surgery is rarely required to treat bursitis. If a bursa remains inflamed and painful after all conservative measures have been tried, your doctor may recommend surgical removal of the affected bursa. This can be done arthroscopically, a minimally invasive approach with a quicker and less painful recovery than traditional surgery.

Simple lifestyle changes may also help prevent bursitis flare-ups:

  • Avoid repetitive activities that stress affected joints
  • Lose weight, if necessary
  • Maintain the strength and flexibility of your joints with regular range-of-motion exercises

Make an Appointment With a Cooper Expert in Treating Bursitis

To learn more about the resources available for treating bursitis at Cooper or to request an appointment, please call 800.8.COOPER (800.826.6737)