What Causes Bursitis To Flare Up?
Healthy joints are crucial in our mobility to perform daily activities. However, too much strain or repetitive tasks can affect the surrounding parts of our joints, such as bursae. In this post, determine what causes bursitis to flare up so you can avoid it and keep pain at bay.
Aside from the cartilage serving as a shock-absorber of our joints, the bursa serves as another fluid-filled sac that cushions the tendons and joints against friction and external trauma. It is the soft cushion that is strategically located around your joints for further protection.
As a trusted physiatrist in Charlotte, Advanced Sports & Spine aims to encourage patients to take care of their joints to avoid experiencing inflammation and the excruciating pain of the bursa or bursitis. Like osteoarthritis, our risks for developing bursitis increase with age. So, the earlier you take care of your joints, the more you delay your risks of having joint problems.
What is bursitis?
Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa placed around the joints. The bursa is a small sac that contains fluid to reduce friction and serve as a cushion for the joints and tendons. It is sandwiched between our soft tissues and bones in our joints like shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, toes, and fingers. In some cases, the bursae become infected, which leads to septic bursitis.
What causes bursitis to flare up?
Bursitis occurs when bursae become inflamed due to repetitive movements and excessive strain on the joints. Other causes include trauma in the joint due to an injury and infection. Occupations and hobbies that involve repetitive tasks done for long periods can also cause too much strain on the joint and irritate the bursa. These include:
- Raking and shoveling
- Carpet placement
- Scrubbing the floor
- Bad posture
- Standing for a long time
- Playing musical instruments and sports
Some patients may develop bursitis due to their underlying medical conditions. Aside from repetitive stress on the joints, there are also risk factors for bursitis, including:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Previous surgery
- Spine problems
- Thyroid disorders
- Overweight and obesity
- Systemic diseases like diabetes
What are the symptoms of bursitis?
There will be pain and swelling in the affected joint, which can limit the mobility of the patient. Since bursitis has the same symptoms as other conditions, like arthritis, it is often initially mistaken as a different joint condition. So, it’s crucial to undergo medical exams for the right diagnosis.
In some cases, when the inflamed bursa is near the skin, there may also be redness in the area. Other symptoms of bursitis include:
- Pain during movement or when touched
- Limited range of motion
- Stiff joints
Bursitis that causes pain and swelling is called aseptic bursitis. However, when a bursa becomes inflamed due to bacterial infection, it becomes septic bursitis which can cause another set of symptoms. Consult your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following signs of infected bursa:
- Pain lasting more than 2 weeks
- Pain spreading or getting worse
- Inability to move the joint
Types of bursitis
Bursitis can occur in any joint in our body which corresponds to the different types of bursitis. These include:
Elbow bursitis or Olecranon bursitis
The bursa that protects our elbows is called the olecranon bursa. When you constantly place your elbows on hard surfaces, elbow or olecranon bursitis may develop. In some cases, the trauma or injury on the elbows can also cause this condition.
Kneecap bursitis or Prepatellar Bursitis
Prepatellar bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa that covers the kneecap. The inflammation occurs due to the irritation on the bursa which triggers it to produce more fluid, leading to pain and swelling. Due to the inflammation of the bursa, there is added pressure to the surrounding parts of the knee which increases pain.
Hip bursitis or trochanteric bursitis
One of the bursa in the hip covers the bony part of the hip called the greater trochanter of the femur. So, when it starts to swell, this type of bursitis is called trochanteric bursitis. The other bursa in the hip area, called iliopsoas bursa, lies inside the groin area of the hip.
The symptom of this condition is pain at the tip of the hip. As the condition gets worse, the pain will radiate to the thigh. The pain may get worse when patients are sleeping on the affected side of the hip and during long walks.
Knee bursitis or Pes Anserine Bursitis
Pes anserine bursitis or the pes anserinus pain syndrome (PAPS) is a condition where the bursa next to the knee joint gets irritated and causes too much fluid. It is a common condition among athletes, obese and overweight patients, and those with osteoarthritis due to overuse and excessive pressure on the joint.
Diagnosis and treatments for bursitis
Since bursitis has similar symptoms to other joint conditions, your doctor will first diagnose where the pain is coming from through x-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or ultrasound. Once your doctor confirms that there is inflammation in the bursa in your joint, the following treatments may be recommended:
- Rest, Ice, Compress & Elevate Method (RICE): To alleviate the irritation of the bursa and reduce inflammation in the joint, your doctor will recommend you to rest the affected area for several days. Putting ice on the inflamed area will constrict the blood vessels and limit the blood and pain signals going in and out of the swollen bursa. Mild bursitis will usually subside using these treatments. However, if pain and swelling persist, other therapies can be recommended.
- Bursa injections: For chronic bursitis, pain interventions like steroid injections can help reduce inflammation and pain. They are also utilized to help patients transition to long-term treatment for their condition.
- Splints: To avoid moving the affected joint, using a splint can help stabilize the joint and avoid moving the bursa as it heals.
For the infected bursa, the following treatments are recommended depending on the severity of your condition:
- Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications (for infected bursitis)
- Surgical drainage of the infected bursa
- Surgery (removal of the infected bursa)
Improve your mobility and be free from pain with Advanced Sports & Spine
Find out if the pain in your joints is caused by bursitis or another joint condition that limits your mobility. Dr. Ahmad provides a range of non-surgical approaches that can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation in your joints. Schedule an appointment today to learn more about the best treatments for you.