Understanding Bursitis

Health Check

Understanding bursitis, a commonly misunderstood orthopedic condition, is important. Bursitis means inflammation of a bursa or a bursa sac. A bursa is composed of very thin soft tissue lined with a membrane that produces fluid. Consequently, imagine a balloon filled with fluid and you will have a good idea of a bursa.

Bursa sacs create spacers that allow muscles and tendons to glide smoothly over boney prominences. Due to the fact that they secrete fluid internally, bursa sacs provide the lubrication that makes this possible. Bursitis results from either a traumatic incident or an overuse condition. As a result of either problem, the thin soft tissue wall of the bursa sac becomes inflamed. Almost all inflamed soft tissue improves with rest and anti-inflammation medicine. Most noteworthy, however, is that this tissue lies between two moving structures. As a result it is often difficult to allow it to rest.

Common areas where bursa sacs become inflamed are in the shoulder, elbow, hip, knee and ankle joints. Often the cause is muscle weakness or arthritic conditions where bone and muscle move irregularly back and forth upon each other. In addition, they also often occur because of a specific trauma to a particular joint and the bursae within that joint.

Understanding Bursitis – Treating This Condition

The treatment for bursitis consists of traditional anti-inflammation measures including ice, anti-inflammation medication, and rest. If the condition does not respond to such conservative measures, a cortisone injection may be worthy of consideration.

Finally, it is worth noting that limiting movement at a particular joint due to discomfort from bursitis could cause severe joint tightness. Consequently, most individuals should attempt to move their joint through a relatively comfortable range of motion to prevent the formation of joint capsule scar tissue.

Please refer to patient education for other brief articles in our educational series. It is through these articles, in part, that we keep our patients (and others) informed of common injuries and conditions, their treatment and healthcare in general.