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What is Bursitis?

Bursae are small sacs filled with fluid; they cushion the bones, tendons and muscles that make up your joints. When these sacs become inflamed, what you feel is bursitis. It can occur in any joint, but the most common sites are the shoulder, elbow, and hip.


The following are all signs of Bursitis:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Achiness
  • Stiffness in a Joint
  • The joint may also hurt if you press on it.


Repetitive actions are the most likely cause of bursitis: sports, activities, or occupations that involve kneeling, throwing, lifting, or even sitting for long periods of time can lend themselves to this condition. Gardening, scrubbing, tennis, golf, skiing — all can become culprits because of the repetitive or overuse actions required. As with other joint conditions, age (bursitis is more common in those over 40), and chronic conditions like diabetes and gout are also factors. An infection in the joint may also cause bursitis.


“First, your physician will ask a lot of questions about the symptoms you feel, and take a detailed medical history that will also include information about your occupation and activities,” says Frank Corrigan, MD, an orthopedic physician at OINJ. “After a physical exam, it might be determined that an imaging test would be helpful. For example, although an x-ray wouldn’t show bursitis, it would help to rule out other possibilities for your symptoms. You may need a blood test, or to have fluid from the affected area analyzed.”

“Once the proper diagnosis is arrived at,” says Christopher Castro, DO, a physiatrist at OINJ, “Treatment can be started. If there are signs of infection, an antibiotic is indicated. If not, and rest, ice, and pain relievers don’t work, physical therapy can help. At OINJ, we start with conservative and non-invasive treatments first. We may decide that some sort of splinting or assistive device is indicated: for example, if the bursitis is in your hip, we might recommend that you walk with a cane for a while, to take the pressure off that joint. Or, we might decide to use a corticosteroid injection to help with the pain.”

“We can also discuss ways to prevent your bursitis from coming back. Depending on which area is affected, this can include proper lifting techniques, stretches, and equipment such as knee pads,” says Dr. Corrigan.


It all starts with the right diagnosis. If your symptoms have persisted for more than a week, you have sharp or shooting pain, or a lot of swelling or redness in the area, make a doctor’s appointment promptly.