Bursitis is an inflammation of a bursa. Bursas are fluid-filled sacs that cushion your muscles, tendons, and skin. They are found in areas where these tissues move across bone. Your shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and heels are common places to get bursitis.


Overuse and injury are common causes of bursitis. Suddenly becoming more active can also cause bursitis. You might also get bursitis from putting pressure on a joint for a long time. Bursitis is common in athletes and in people who spend a lot of time kneeling or leaning on their elbows. It’s also common after an injury.

Bursitis is mostly seen in middle-aged and older adults. Having an infection, arthritis, or gout in a joint increases your risk for bursitis. Bursitis is more common in people who have diabetes, kidney disease, or thyroid problems.


Some of the symptoms you might have with bursitis include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling, and
  • Redness

To make a diagnosis, your provider will usually ask about your symptoms and your medical history. During your exam, your provider will look closely at the affected area. Your provider will check for areas that are tender and see how well your joint moves. If the bursitis is in your hip, knee, or ankle, your provider might watch how you walk.

Bursitis doesn’t show up on an X-ray, but you might get one if your provider thinks you have other problems, or if your pain doesn’t go away.

You might get an ultrasound, which uses sound waves to take a picture of your body. You might also have an M-R-I scan. An M-R-I uses magnets and a computer to create an image of your body.

Your provider might also take a sample of the fluid from your bursa. This test can be helpful if your provider is worried about problems like infections.


Bursitis can often be cured using simple treatments. Rest and ice are often the first treatments for bursitis. Your provider might also send you to a physical therapist.

Medications may help relieve your bursitis pain. Your provider might recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or N-SAIDs . Naproxen, ibuprofen, and aspirin are examples of N-SAIDs that don’t require a prescription. Acetaminophen is another nonprescription pain reliever that might help.

You might also get relief from rubbing pain-relieving cream on your skin.

If your bursitis is caused by an infection, you will probably be given antibiotics.

If you continue having pain, your provider may recommend a steroid injection. If you’re still having problems after six to twelve months, you may need surgery.

You may be able to avoid getting bursitis entirely by warming up your muscles and joints, and then stretching before you begin exercising more vigorously. Increase your activity level gradually. Strengthening the muscles that support and surround your joint can also help.

If you’re doing repetitive tasks, take breaks. If you’re putting pressure on your joints, change your position a lot. Also, use padding for your joints.

Things to Remember

Bursitis can often be treated with rest, ice, and nonprescription medications.

See your provider if you still have symptoms after about several months.

You can reduce your risk of getting bursitis by slowly increasing your activity level and protecting your joints.

If you have joint pain, it’s important to talk with your provider. Together you can figure out the source of your pain and how to treat it.

What We Have Learned

  1. Acetaminophen and NSAIDs may help relieve pain from bursitis. True or False?
    The answer is True. Rest and ice can also help your bursitis get better.

  2. The shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, and heel are common sites of bursitis. True or False?
    The answer is True. The condition is common in middle-aged and older adults.