by Kimberly Allen RN
Bursitis is a condition in which this small pads that cushion your joints becomes inflamed. The bursae are small fluid filled sacs or pads that lie next to the tendons and muscles that control joint movement, allowing them to move or slide across the bones. This provides a smooth gliding surface for the muscles and tendons, allowing painless flexion and extension of your joints. We have 160 bursa sacs in our body. The most commonly affected bursae are those near the large joints like the hips, knees, shoulders and elbows, though any of the 160 can be affected.
Bursitis can be either acute or chronic and can be caused by several things, including systemic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and gout as well as infection or trauma, but the most common cause is over use like repetitive movements. Age can also play a role in developing bursitis. As we age so do the various parts of our body including the bursa making them more susceptible to injury. That’s why it is more commonly diagnosed in adults over 40 years of age. The most common cause, over use, can occur from an occupation or hobby. It can be caused by both repetitive motion and/or continuous pressure on a particular joint. For example, if you lay carpeting or put in flooring you spend alot of time on your knees, this continuous pressure can lead to bursitis just as someone that has to throw something like a ball or garbage cans all day.
The symptoms of bursitis depend on the severity of the inflammation and/or damage to the bursa. The most common symptom is pain, which can vary from mild to debilitating. The degree of pain is also dependent on the severity of inflammation. If you have bursitis in your hip you may not be able to lie on that hip, or if your knee is affected it might be unbearable for your knees to touch each other when you’re lying down. The pain can develop slowly becoming more severe over time or it can appear suddenly, which is more common if there are calcium deposits in the affected area. There can also be swelling with warmth and redness over the affected joint accompanied by stiffness.
For bursitis that is mild to moderate, treatment usually consists of resting the affected joint and applying ice to the area. In mild to moderate cases of bursitis, the pain can be managed with over the counter pain relievers like ibuprofen. If your Dr suspects your bursitis is either caused by or has developed and infection he/she will prescribe antibiotics. If your bursitis is more severe, your Dr may inject corticosteroids into the bursa to help reduce the inflammation. These injections also provide pain relief shortly after being injected. Also, these injections are a one time only treatment. Sometimes if the bursa is severely inflamed, the Dr may recommend draining some of the fluid out of the bursa using a needle. This is usually done in the Drs office. In most cases the Dr will also recommend physical therapy. The type of physical therapy exercises recommended will depend on the joint(s) affected. The goal of the exercises is to strengthen the muscles of the area affected in order to allow use of the joint with less pain and decrease the risk of recurrence.
Though you may not be able to prevent all types of bursitis it is possible to decrease your risk of developing it as well as decrease recurrence and the severity of any flare ups by changing the way you do some things. For example, if you spend alot of time on your knees use a pad to decrease the pressure on your knees. Using proper body mechanics, whether sitting at a desk or moving furniture, is crucial to preventing numerous injuries including bursitis. If you have to sit for long periods of time, try to adjust your position frequently so the pressure isn’t always on the same area. Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight strengthens your muscles and decreases the stress on your joints. Rest joints that are used repeatedly through out your day and stop if you notice pain. The sooner bursitis is detected and treated the shorter your recovery time.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.