What is bursitis and why does it cause so much pain/discomfort? Bursitis is an inflammation of bursa — a thin, fluid-filled sac that works as a cushion between tissues of the body. When bursa becomes irritated or swollen it becomes thicker and sometimes develops fluid, creating friction that is painful and disturbing to the body.

This increased tension between ligaments and bones is like not placing a saddle blanket between a saddle and a horse. Without the saddle blanket, the horse suffers pain and is on course to experience trouble over time. With more than 150 bursae, bursitis can create issues without warning, but is a common and preventable occurrence within the human body.

The most common areas where inflammation and irritation occur are the knee, hip, elbow, feet and shoulder. Many factors lead to bursitis, but the root cause is too much stress on the bursa. Chronic bursitis is the most common, developing over time due to repetitive irritation of the bursa.

The second most common is infected bursitis, a dangerous condition requiring immediate medical attention due to bacteria located within the bursa – if it spreads there can be serious consequences. The third, is traumatic bursitis, which is often found in athletes involved in repetitive rubbing of an extremity against a hard surface or excessive bending of the joint.

The great news is bursitis is normally temporary and treatable. It is important to work with a specialist and discuss whether your symptoms represent a case of bursitis or are a red-flag for another ailment. Treatment plans vary depending upon what type of bursitis is diagnosed, as do timelines for recovery.

The key is to identify the location of the pain and pursue a treatment plan focused on reducing inflammation and an increase of blood flow to the bursa area. When you have a bursa injury, inflammation and reduced movement reduces the flow of blood to the affected area, so those suffering from bursitis often experience an immediate decrease in activity.

Leaning toward inactivity can create more issues, which leads to other musculoskeletal complaints. Although bursitis hampers mobility, it should not be the catalyst for a sedentary lifestyle. Pain and inflammation can be overcome with a thoughtful, well-designed approach.

Symptoms of bursitis include swelling, which is the most obvious indication, and pain at the site. Infected bursitis can include tenderness, pain and fever along with inflammation, which as mentioned, requires swift medical attention.

Symptoms often point to one type of bursitis over another, but it is best not to self-diagnosis. Without a proper diagnosis and treatment plan, bursitis can linger instead of go away. You can reduce your risk and severity by taking steps to change behavior/activity. Modification or elimination can be a gamechanger for bursitis sufferers.

The old adage “no pain, no gain” should not apply to bursitis conversations. Sometimes the best way to prevent pain is to rest and recover. Much more will be gained after a full recovery versus immersion into the activity which sidelined you from the start.

It is possible to claim victory over bursitis. If you are experiencing pain that interferes with daily activities or various forms of exercise/athletic competition, please do not hesitate to reach out to schedule an appointment with a specialist at McBride.

Go to Main Blog Page View Benjamin I. Panter, MD Bio