Causes of Bursitis

Bursitis is an inflammation of one or more bursae, small fluid-filled pockets that surround joints to provide cushioning for nearby bones, tendons, and muscles. When these pockets become inflamed, they may cause a significant amount of pain, stiffness, swelling, and/or redness. The pain may become worse when the affected area is under pressure or in use. This condition may affect any area of the body, but is most common in the shoulders, elbows, or hips.

Bursitis may be caused by several situations, but the most common cause is repetitive actions that irritate the bursae. Physical labor contribute significantly to the risk of developing bursitis, whether it is for your job (such as working on an assembly line and frequently reaching overhead for parts) or around your home (such as spending a lot of time on your knees to scrub your bathtub). Sitting for long stretches of time, especially on a floor or other hard surface, may also irritate bursae, particularly around the hips. An injury or other trauma (such as surgery) may also trigger bursitis. Pre-existing inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis or gout, may also cause inflammation in the bursae. Infection of the bursae or surrounding area may also contribute to this painful swelling. While anybody may develop bursitis, people of advanced age are more likely to suffer from this condition.

Bursitis is usually treated fairly conservatively. The old joke “Doctor, it hurts when I do this!” “Well, then, don’t do that!” rings quite true when dealing with bursitis. Whenever possible, avoid activities you have linked to aggravation of your bursitis. Following basic RICE instructions – rest, ice, compression, elevation – is another common form of treating bursitis symptoms. Over-the-counter painkillers may help reduce pain and swelling, but check with your doctor or pharmacist before trying a new product, especially if you take prescription medications. It is important to see a doctor when experiencing the type of pain that bursitis leads to, if for no reason other than to rule out more serious injury.


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