What is bursitis? Bursitis is the inflammation of a bursa. What is a bursa? Let us explain.

Bursitis: Let’s Break this Down

A bursa is a protective, fluid-filled sac that acts as a gliding surface for tissues in the body. They reduce friction between bones at a joint. Bursae act as cushions for the bones, tendons, and ligaments at those joints. Bursitis happens when bursae become inflamed and irritated.

bursitis anatomy
A bursa at the shoulder joint

1 in every 31 Americans suffer from bursitis at some time. According to the Mayo Clinic, bursitis occurs commonly at the shoulder, elbow, and hip. Other locations include the knee, heel, and below the big toe.  Bursitis is also common in joints  that perform repetitive movements. Think about how often you bend your elbow. This is an area prone to irritation.

What Does Bursitis Feel Like?

Some symptoms include stiffness, pain, swelling, and tenderness at the joint. Movement can also be difficult and cause specific pain. Sometimes the pain is local, and sometimes it spreads or refers elsewhere. This is called a pain pattern.

Where bursitis pain spreads from the outside hip down the leg


What Causes Bursitis?

The cause of bursitis usually depends on the type or location. Often, aggravating or repeating movements at the joint could lead to the bursae to become irritated, swollen, and painful. Sometimes resting body weight on the joint for a long period of time (leaning on the elbow, kneeling for a long time). Infection, injury, or arthritis in the area can also lead to bursa inflammation and pain.

Sometimes added outside pressure on the elbow can lead to inflammation of the bursa on the outside of the elbow.


What Can Be Done About the Pain?

If caught early enough, rest and ice to the area in combination with pain medications can help to reduce the pain and inflammation. If the symptoms carry on, there are other methods of treatment that will help to ease the irritation and restore proper joint function. Physical therapy with strengthening or stretching can allow for the improved mechanics. This helps to ease any unnecessary pressure on the bursa that would lead to pain. Certain treatment protocols and pain reduction modalities used in Physical Therapy sessions can significantly reduce or even eliminate the source of the inflammation.

If these other methods are not utilized in a timely fashion, or prove ineffective, surgery to drain the swollen bursa may have to be considered. As always, it is best to avoid surgery if you can try other means.

Let Us Help

Come see us here at Back In Motion Physical Therapy to help you ease your painful bursitis. Whether you feel pain at the hip, the knee, the elbow, the shoulder, or wherever, we are well equipped to get you moving pain free again. With our innovative treatment protocols and advanced technology, we will see that you are guided through the pain toward proper function, reduced inflammation and irritation, and improved range of motion at the affected joint.


Call Us Today to Make an Appointment!



-Written by Becca Chamberlain, LMT, RYT

About the Author Tim Burnell, PT

Tim Burnell is the Lead Physical Therapist at Back In Motion Sarasota. He has over two decades of clinical experience. He takes pride in getting to the root of the problem which helps get his clients better...Faster! He is a family man & enjoys spending time with the love of his life, Monique. He has 2 children & a dog named Annie. Tim's son, Andre' is 11 years old and his daughter Joliebelle (nicknamed Pooky) is 7 years old. He enjoys visiting his wife's side of the family in New Orleans and his side of the family in Vermont. Tim grew up in Vermont, went to Physical Therapy School in Alabama, got his first job at Tulane Hospital in New Orleans and moved to Sarasota Florida after Hurricane Katrina in 2006.

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