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Understanding Bursitis

Bursitis in the shoulder and other joints causes pain, swelling, tenderness and stiffness that can make it difficult to work, play sports, or perform simple, everyday tasks. Understanding bursitis and its causes and treatment options can help you regain the lifestyle you enjoy.

What Is Bursitis?

The literal meaning of bursitis is inflammation of the bursa. Bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs that cushion, lubricate, and reduce friction between bone, muscle, tendons, and skin. There are more than 150 bursae found in joints throughout the body. When bursae become inflamed, they typically become swollen and tender, resulting in stiffness and pain that increase with movement or pressure. This pressure can even cause pain while lying down and sleeping.

How Common Is Bursitis?

There are more than 200,000 reported cases of bursitis in the U.S. per year. Bursitis most commonly occurs in the shoulder, which has the most range of motion of any joint in the human body, but it can also occur in the elbows, hips, knees and other joints. The risk of bursitis tends to increase as you age. People with chronic bursitis often experience little pain but experience limited mobility, which can have a significant impact on quality of life.

Types of Bursitis

Because bursitis can happen in any bursa in the body, there are dozens of different types of bursitis. Here are some of the most common types of bursitis.

  • Shoulder Bursitis. When the shoulder bursa that enables the movement of the rotator cuff becomes inflamed, this results in subacromial bursitis.
  • Hip Bursitis. Also called trochanteric bursitis, hip bursitis causes pain on the outside of the hip joint and is more common in women and the elderly. This condition is sometimes mistaken for arthritis, which is typically felt in the groin, thigh or buttocks.
  • Anterior and Posterior Achilles Tendon Bursitis. The anterior version is also called Albert’s disease or retromalleolar tendon bursitis, while the posterior version is also called Haglund’s deformity. Both can be caused by injury, poorly fitting shoes, and poor walking habits.
  • Elbow Bursitis. Also called olecranon bursitis, elbow bursitis occurs around the olecranon, the bony structure at the top of the ulna bone on the back of the elbow. The olecranon bursa is the type of bursa most likely to become infected due to scrapes, cuts, or even injections.
  • Knee and Kneecap Bursitis. Knee bursitis, also called goosefoot or Pes Anserine bursitis, occurs on the inside of the knee between the shin bone and the hamstring tendons. Kneecap bursitis, or prepatellar bursitis, is felt on the front of the knee, often by people who spend a lot of time of their knees, such as flooring installers and plumbers.

Causes of Bursitis

The most common causes of bursitis involve heavy lifting, repetitive motions, and prolonged pressure that strain and inflame the joints. Athletes who run, throw, jump, or swing their arms (tennis, baseball, bowling, etc.) often experience bursitis. However, people who lead a sedentary lifestyle are susceptible to bursitis when they suddenly start exercising without proper conditioning.

Additional causes of bursitis include but are not limited to:

  • Sudden trauma, such as a fall or a blow to the joint
  • Bacterial infection
  • Improper stretching
  • Poorly fitting shoes
  • Diabetes
  • Gout
  • Bone spurs
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Spinal conditions and imbalances

Treatments for Bursitis

We can help you diagnose and pinpoint the root cause of bursitis through a comprehensive exam, a conversation about your history and activity, and observation of how you move and function. In some cases, diagnostic imaging might be required to confirm diagnosis. If an infection is suspected, a small sample of bursa fluid may be taken for testing.

To account for the subtle differences and complexities in different areas of the body, treatment depends on the specific type of bursitis. For mild cases of bursitis, ice is used to reduce swelling and rest will often allow the inflammation to subside and the bursa to heal. However, if bursitis was caused by improper joint alignment or mechanics, these issues should be addressed to prevent reoccurrence. Physical therapy, chiropractic care, and podiatry can help you restore proper function and balance, while nutritional protocols and supplements can reduce inflammation. Massage and acupuncture can also relieve pain from bursitis and promote healing.

Of course, prevention of bursitis is ideal. Stay hydrated, fill your diet with whole foods, and avoid inflammatory foods such as sugar, artificial sweeteners, soda, and processed foods. Take frequent breaks from repetitive motions and activities, warm up and cool down instead of starting and stopping abruptly, and use protective gear such as knee pads and seat cushions to relieve pressure on your joints.

If You Have Bursitis or Suspect You May Have Bursitis…

Don’t accept pain, stiffness, swelling, and/or tenderness in any of your joints as normal. Schedule a complimentary consultation at Natural Healthcare Center. We’ll discuss your history, review your diagnostic imaging, and share our insights at no charge. Let us help you determine if bursitis is the problem, identify the root cause, and develop a personalized treatment plan to help you feel better, function better and live longer.

Flagship Office

10 West End Court
Long Branch, NJ 07740
P: (732) 222-2219
(732) 229-8863
Monday: 8AM-7PM
Tuesday: 8AM–7PM
Wednesday: 8AM–7PM
Thursday: 9AM–3PM
Friday: 8AM–7PM
Saturday: 9AM–1PM
Sunday: Closed

Middletown Office

9 Leonardville Rd
Middletown, NJ 07748
P: (732) 671-9005
(732) 671-9006
Monday: 9AM–8PM
Tuesday: 10-3PM
Wednesday: 9AM–8PM
Thursday: 9AM–8PM
Friday: 9AM–6PM
Saturday: 10AM–1PM
Sunday: Closed