What Is Bursitis?

What Is Bursitis?

Is one of your joints swollen and tender, and does it hurt when you move? Your doctor will help you figure out what's going on, but there's a chance you could have bursitis. The condition happens when your bursae, small fluid-filled sacs near your joints, get irritated and swollen.

Bursae play a key role in helping your joints move smoothly. When they're working right, they cushion your bones, tendons, and ligaments as they move against each other.

What Causes Bursitis?

If you overuse a joint in sports or on the job, put it under pressure for a long time, or get a sudden injury, a nearby bursa can get inflamed. The sac fills with extra fluid, which puts pressure on nearby tissue.

The first sign of trouble is pain, along with swelling and tenderness in the area.

Bursitis is different from tendinitis, which is inflammation or irritation in the cord, or tendon, that attaches your muscle to bone.


You're more likely to get bursitis at an older age. One of the most common places it strikes is the shoulder, which has the greatest range of motion of all the body's major joints. If you get bursitis there, you'll likely feel pain along the outside top of your shoulder.

Besides the shoulder, other joints where you can get bursitis are the elbows, hips, and knees.

The pain from bursitis tends to be most severe while you use the joint, but it can also hurt at night.

Bursitis may show up in people such as:

Manual workers. If you do a lot of heavy lifting or repetitive motion on the job, it can strain your joints and bring on bursitis.

Athletes. We're not only talking about professional players here. Even if you're just a weekend warrior, you can get bursitis after running, throwing, jumping, or making aggressive arm swings in tennis, baseball, and even bowling.

Couch potatoes. No, you won't get bursitis from sitting on the sofa watching TV. But if you're out of shape and push your body too hard during exercise, you can raise your chance of having the condition. Always start a new workout routine gradually.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on May 30, 2019


Mayo Clinic. 

Jonathan Cluett, MD, orthopedic surgeon, Massachusetts.

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