Read an Overview of Bursitis Caused by Arthritis

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What is Bursitis?

Bursitis is inflammation of the bursae, a fluid-filled sac that reduces irritation and friction between the tissues of muscle, bone and tendons and allows free, smooth movement. As the bursa sacs swell, movement becomes difficult and painful.

There are more than a hundred bursa throughout the body. The most common locations for bursitis, according to the Arthritis Foundation include:

  • Shoulder - subacromial-subdeltoid bursitis, which affects the outer part of the shoulder, making it hard to raise your arm overhead
  • Elbow - olecranon bursitis, affecting the tip of the elbow
  • Hip - iliopsoas bursitis, which affects the front of the hip causing pain in the groin; and trochanteric bursitis, which affects the side of the hip
  • Ankle - retrocalcaneal bursitis, which is located between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone
  • Knee - prepatellar bursitis, which is located in front of the kneecap; and anserine bursitis, located below the knee.

Causes of Bursitis

The most common causes of bursitis include repetitive movement of a joint and prolonged or excessive pressure on a joint. A joint that is already damaged by systemic inflammatory conditions, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, pseudogout, gout and ankylosing spondylitis, can cause additional stress on the bursa sac, making it susceptible to developing bursitis, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

Activities such as playing tennis, gardening, shoveling, throwing a ball, skiing and painting may cause overuse or injury to the joint, which causes bursitis to develop. The lack of stretching or conditioning prior to exercise or activity can lead to bursitis.

Bursitis Signs and Symptoms

Arthritis is a systemic inflammatory disease that causes the breakdown of the cartilage that protects the joint. Once the breakdown occurs, your joints are at risk for developing bursitis. Signs and symptoms of bursitis to look for include the following:

  • Do you experience joint achiness and stiffness that worsens upon movement?
  • Is the joint red or swollen?
  • Does the area around the joint feel warm to the touch?
  • Is there a sharp pain upon movement of the joint?

The Mayo Clinic recommends consulting your doctor if your pain lasts for more than two weeks, if you have a fever, or if the pain is disabling.

Treatment for Bursitis

Since there is no cure for arthritis, treatment for bursitis caused by arthritis includes managing the underlying disease process. Rheumatoid arthritis treatment includes aggressive physical therapy and medications, such as disease modifying antirheumatic, anti-inflammatory, antimalarial and corticosteroid medications to delay joint destruction, according to MedlinePlus.

Other treatment options for bursitis include:

  • Resting and elevating the joint
  • Using a splint or device to support the joint and prevent movement
  • Applying ice or heat for pain relief and to reduce swelling
  • Using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, if you’re not already taking either for arthritis control
  • Aspiration of bursa fluid
  • Injecting cortisone into the swollen bursa
  • Having surgery to remove the bursa in extremely rare cases


Arthritis Foundation: Effects of Arthritis on Bursitis

Arthritis Foundation: Causes of Bursitis

MayoClinic: Signs of Bursitis

MedlinePlus: What Is the Treatment for Bursitis?