First things first… there are about 160 bursae throughout the human body. A bursa is a fluid-filled sac lined with special cells which secrete a lubricating fluid rich in collagen and proteins. It functions as a gliding surface to decrease friction between the bones, tendons, and muscles near the joints. Bursitis, then, is inflammation of a bursa, and it can cause mild, moderate, or even severe pain.
Bursitis is commonly located in the shoulder, elbow, knee, and hip, but can also occur in the heel and the base of your big toe. Overall, it tends to localize near joints that perform repetitive movements. Treatment generally involves resting the affected joint and shielding it from further damage, and with proper treatment, the pain associated with bursitis goes away within a few weeks, but flare-ups of bursitis are common.
How Do I Know? Bursitis Causes and Symptoms
Some of the symptoms of bursitis are aching and stiffness in your joints, pain during movement, redness and swelling near the joint, and pain with pressure at the site of the bursitis. You should definitely talk to your doctor if you have any of the following: fever, excessive swelling, redness, bruising, joint pain that is severe or that lasts for over two weeks, or shooting pains when you exercise or exert yourself.
If you have had an injury or trauma to the joint, inflammatory arthritis, gout, or an infection, or even if you make repetitive movements that irritate the bursae around a joint, you are more likely to get bursitis. As a matter of fact, even prolonged sitting on hard surfaces can cause the bursae in your hips to react with inflammation. This is why it’s important to get up and move if you sit most of the day. Even leaning on your elbows or lifting something over your head repeatedly can cause bursitis.
A Risky Business
There are some factors that can increase your risk of getting bursitis. Bursitis, like arthritis, becomes more common with age, but anyone who has a job or hobby that involves repetitive movements or pressure on specific bursae is at a higher risk of developing bursitis. Some examples of occupations that use repetitive motion include tile setting, painting, playing a musical instrument, and carpet installation. In addition, there are some conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and diabetes that can increase your risk of getting bursitis.
- Using padding or guards for the areas of the body where the bursae are especially close to the surface of the skin, like the ankles and knees.
- The areas of the body affected by bursitis can be rested (and if possible, elevated) to help stop the symptoms. Although exercise is important to keep muscles toned, you may need to choose exercises that don’t involve painful motions. The best exercise that does not put too much pressure on the bursae is swimming.
- Icing the affected area can be quite effective in reducing the pain and inflammation. If you don’t have small ice packs available, you can use packages of frozen vegetables. Apply the ice pack to the area for 10 minutes at least twice a day to help decrease inflammation.
Living with bursitis, like arthritis, can be very painful and frustrating, but with the right treatment and pain management, you don’t have to let it control your movement.