Bursitis Caused by Arthritis: Causes, Management, and Treatment Options

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Bursitis caused by arthritis can be a secondary disease. Arthritis in the form of rheumatoid, gout, ankylosing spondylitis, and CPPD crystal deposition are primary conditions of bursitis. Bursitis involves increased fluid and swelling of the bursa in a joint, usually the hip, elbow, knee, shoulder and heel.

Diagnosing Bursitis

The bursa is a sac that allows all the components of the joint to move freely; such as skin over bone, bone over tendon, and muscle over muscle. It has a certain amount of fluid that keeps everything moist. When the bursa becomes injured, it fills with more fluid, and movement becomes painful and difficult. Arthritis can be an irritant against the bursa sac.

Diagnosing bursitis caused by arthritis may be confirmed if arthritis is part of the medical history. Certain types of bursitis affect one gender over another, such as trochanteric (hip found in women 80% of the time. It also affects older people who suffer from arthritis. The physician may order blood tests to check for rheumatoid arthritis. He may manipulate the joint to pinpoint the spots of irritation. It will also help him to distinguish is a tendon is the cause of the pain. Certain areas of a joint will show more pain than others, and the sign of fluid build-up will indicate that the bursa, the fluid sac in the joint, is larger than normal.

To check for infection, the physician will aspirate some of the fluid from the joint. The use of x-ray does not show soft tissue but if the joint suffers from arthritis it will show.


The physician may order cold compresses for the first few days if the condition is not too severe. A physical therapist may be enlisted if the condition continues.

Bursitis caused by arthritis needs treatment by a rheumatologist. The arthritis factor needs to be evaluated, and an individual treatment plan developed according to the type and severity of the arthritis.

Routine arthritis treatment may eliminate the bursitis from recurring. Joint swelling can be treated with steroids and anti-inflammatory medications. Another treatment is ultrasound that is used to warm the joints and sooth the tissues. Medication such as cortosteroid injections may be used to give relief but can only be used sparingly. Physical therapy plays a large role in maintaining mobility and prevention from future occurrences.

Maintaining limited activity during bursitis is important. Vigorous exercise can cause more swelling and eventual damage to the tendons. To prevent recurrence, use stretching exercises before resuming a walking regiment.

Joint damage and chronic bursitis may require removal of the bursa sac. The surgery is rarely used but in some cases it is the best treatment.

Sports injuries can cause bursitis but if the condition suddenly appears bursitis caused by arthritis can be a new condition that needs expert management.


Arthritis Foundation: Bursitis


Medline Plus: Bursitis


NIAMS:Bursitis and Tendonitis