What is Bursitis?
A bursa is a membrane near a joint that acts as a cushion between the muscle and bone. The bursa reduces friction caused by movement and makes the joint more flexible.
Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa. It is a common condition that often happens when a joint is overused, such as when throwing a baseball or painting a wall. More rarely, bursitis can be caused by gout or an infection.
Bursitis is more common in people who are overweight, elderly or diabetic, although it also develops in younger, healthy people without a clear reason.
The best way to prevent bursitis is to avoid repetitive motion of a joint, especially if you are overweight. Losing weight may reduce the risk of developing bursitis in your legs. If repeated stress on a bursa cannot be avoided, protective gear can help prevent bursitis. For example, carpet layers who spend time kneeling may need protective knee gear.
If you modify your activities and rest the joint, symptoms should go away within days or sometimes weeks. In the meantime, you may want to take an anti-inflammatory drug such as aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and others) to relieve discomfort and reduce the inflammation. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and physical therapy also may be effective. If bursitis is caused by an infection, you will need to take an antibiotic. When the pain is intense or does not improve in a short period, your doctor may inject a corticosteroid drug directly into the area. However, repeated steroid injections over a short time can be damaging.
When bursitis occurs repeatedly in the same joint, the bursa may be removed surgically, although this is very rare. Surgery also may be needed if you have an infection in the bursa that does not clear up when you take antibiotics.
Some symptoms of bursitis include pain, swelling, and tenderness; all pain localized to and around the area of the bursa. Most commonly, bursitis is found in adults, especially for those over 40 years of age. Local inflammation and chronic irritation associated with bursitis can develop from repetitive trauma. The prepatellar (above the knee or patella) bursa is the most commonly affected and when inflamed is called "housemaid's knee."