Skip to content

Information and Resources

Font Size
A
A
A

Understanding Bursitis -- the Basics

What Is Bursitis?

Wherever your bones, tendons, and ligaments move against each other, particularly near joints, the points of contact are cushioned by small fluid-filled sacs called bursae.

By reducing friction, each of the more than 150 bursae in your body helps the joints operate smoothly through the full range of natural movement. But when a bursa becomes irritated and swollen, it's called bursitis -- or inflammation of the bursa.

Understanding Bursitis

Find out more about bursitis:

Basics

Symptoms

Diagnosis and Treatment

What Causes Bursitis?

When a joint is overused or injured suddenly, or when it remains under pressure for a long time, a nearby bursa can become inflamed. The sac fills with excess fluid, causing pressure on surrounding tissue. The first signal is pain, often accompanied by inflammation, swelling, and tenderness in the area. Bursitis is different from tendinitis, which is inflammation or irritation in the cord or tendon attaching muscle to bone.

Shoulder

Older age is associated with bursitis, and one of the most common places it strikes is in the shoulder, which has the greatest range of motion of all the body's major joints. The pain is generally felt along the outside top of the shoulder. The discomfort of bursitis tends to be most severe while using the joint but can also be severe at night. Other places that are prone to bursitis are the elbows, hips, and knees.

Bursitis often develops due to strenuous activity, particularly among the following types of people:

  • Manual workers. Heavy lifting, repetitive motion, or working for extended periods can strain the joints and bring on bursitis.
  • Athletes. They may get bursitis after running, throwing, or jumping, or from making aggressive arm swings in tennis, baseball, and even bowling.
  • Sedentary people. If they push their bodies past reasonable limits, they risk bursitis.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on February 27, 2015

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

sore foot
3 warning signs.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
Epinephrine Injection using Auto-Injector Syringe
Life-threatening triggers.
disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
psoriasis
What it looks like.
checking blood sugar
Symptoms and treatment.
man behind computer screen
10 possible causes.
Woman with itchy watery eyes
Common triggers.
man screaming
Making sense of symptoms.
human liver
What puts you at risk?
caregiver with parent
10 tips for daily life.
two male hands
Understanding RA.

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.