The only good thing about pain is that it proves you are alive – so said an American magician. If only he could wave his wand and make the discomfort from bursitis go away! Bursitis is an inflammatory condition that causes the small fluid-filled sac called bursa, which acts as a cushion between your bone and muscles/skin or tendons around our joints, to swell up. Bursitis can affect any joint although the most commonly affected bursae are at the elbow (olecranon), knee (prepatellar), hip (trochanteric), or heel (retrocalcaneal).
Pain And Tenderness Predominant Signs Of Bursitis
If you have bursitis you will feel pain and tenderness in the part of the body that is affected. This could either be sudden and intense or start as a dull ache which gets worse with movement or pressure.
Mobility And Range Of Motion Also Affected
Bursitis can also make it difficult for you to move the joint freely. Even supporting your own body weight may be a challenge if you have knee or ankle bursitis. You’ll also find it tough to maneuver into certain positions – for example, lying on the affected side if your hip joint is affected by bursitis.1
Redness And Swelling In The Affected Area
You may see some redness in the painful area if the affected bursa is close to the skin. If your bursitis is chronic, you will suffer repeated episodes of swelling, tenderness, and pain and these will leave your muscles sore, again limiting your range of motion. Bursitis symptoms may resemble those of other illnesses too. So you need an expert opinion for diagnosis.
Symptoms Of Prepatellar/Kneecap Bursitis
When the bursa located in front of your kneecap (patella) suffers from inflammation you will feel:
- Pain in the knee whenever it is used.
- Swelling on the front of the kneecap. It can be seen and felt through the skin and may become squishy.
- Tenderness and warmth on the kneecap. The tenderness and pain may be perceptible only when the person sits or kneels.
- Fluid and redness if the bursa has caught an infection.2 3
Symptoms Of Elbow/Olecranon Bursitis
Olecranon bursitis is one of the most common types of bursitis. The pointy bone at the back of your elbow is called olecranon and the bursa is located between the olecranon and the loose skin covering your elbow, at the outside tip of your elbow. This bursa is flat and if it becomes infected or inflamed, expect the following signs:
- Swelling, the first symptom, takes time to show up because of the loose skin at the elbow.
- You feel pain if any direct pressure is exerted on the elbow or if you bend your arm. But remember, elbow bursitis can also occur without your feeling any pain or tenderness!
- You may not be able to bend your arm if the inflammation is severe.4 5
Symptoms Of Hip/Trochanter Bursitis
Your hip area has two bursae – one covering the outer bony part of the hip bone (the greater trochanter) and the other located on the inside of the hip, near the groin (iliopsoas bursa). It is mostly the greater trochanter that gets inflamed, so hip bursitis is also called trochanter bursitis.
If it is hip bursitis that is keeping you down, you may have these symptoms:
- Sharp and intense pain at the outer most projection of the hip and in the outer thigh area. The pain becomes more of a dull ache later.
- The pain spreads to the thighs and beyond.
- You find it difficult to lie down on the affected side.
- You have stiffness or pain and find it difficult to get up from a sitting position.
Hip bursitis could be acute or chronic. If you have acute bursitis, your pains can flare up for hours or even days. If you injure your hip, or the pain comes back, your bursitis could become chronic. Pain of chronic bursitis lasts from a few days to many weeks. The pain could also come and go. With chronic bursitis, the bursa can become thick and make the swelling even worse. Movement becomes restricted.6 7
Symptoms Of Heel/Retrocalcaneal Bursitis
Pain behind your heel may mean retrocalcaneal bursitis. Your retrocalcaneal bursa is behind your Achilles tendon, located just above the point where the tendon joins your heel bone. If it gets inflamed,
- You feel pain, tenderness, swelling at the back of the heel.
- Heel pain intensifies if you rise on your toes, run uphill, and point or flex your foot. This is because of the added pressure on the swollen bursa.
- Your pain may flare up when you stand after some rest.
- Your normal shoes may be extremely uncomfortable.
- The skin behind the heel may thicken, become red and swell up, especially if there is an infection.8 9
Symptoms Of Septic Bursitis
The word septic indicates the presence of an infection. Septic bursitis is a serious condition and needs medical attention. Aside from the usual bursitis symptoms, septic bursitis triggers some additional signs such as:
- A high temperature of 100.4 degree F or above
- Broken skin
- Indications of an infection such as cellulitis in the deeper layers of the skin.10
Your doctor will give you a comprehensive physical exam as the first step to treat your bursitis. You may need to have some tests done if your doctor feels the need for it. Initial treatment will start with plenty of rest and some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). You may be asked to exercise once the pain subsides, and/or use assistive devices or special footwear. In extreme cases, surgery might be needed.
|↑1||Bursitis and Tendinitis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.|
|↑2||Prepatellar (Kneecap) Bursitis. American Society of Orthopedic Surgeons (ASOS).|
|↑3||Prepatellar Bursitis Symptoms. Arthritis Health.|
|↑4||Elbow (Olecranon) Bursitis. ASOS.|
|↑5||Elbow (Olecranon) Bursitis Symptoms. Arthritis Health.|
|↑6||Symptoms of bursitis of the hip FamilyDoctor.org.|
|↑7||Hip Bursitis. ASOS.|
|↑8||Heel Pain. ASOS.|
|↑9||Heel (Retrocalcaneal) Bursitis Symptoms. Arthritis Health.|
|↑10||Symptoms. NHS Choices.|