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What is bursitis?

Bursitis is the painful inflammation or irritation of a fluid-filled sac of lubricating fluid in the joints called a bursa.


What causes bursitis?

Causes of bursitis include:

What parts of the body does bursitis affect?

Bursitis can affect any of the joints in the body, including:

Types of bursitis

Knee bursitis (prepatellar bursitis, housemaid's knee). This is often caused by kneeling regularly for a long time or repetitive knee movements. As well as cleaners, plumbers and carpet fitters can be affected.

Hip bursitis ( trochanteric bursitis). This affects the greater trochanter part of the femur (thighbone). Both hips are usually affected, but the cause is not always clear. Back problems and posture may be a factor.

Achilles tendon bursitis. The Achilles tendons link the heel to the calf. When the back of the heel is affected, this is called posterior Achilles tendon bursitis and is often caused by lots of walking or shoe problems, including high heels. If the front of the joint is affected, this is called anterior Achilles tendon bursitis, retromalleolar bursitis or Albert disease. Strain on the heel is often the cause, including uncomfortable or rigid shoes.

Elbow bursitis (olecranon bursitis, student’s elbow). This can be due to injuries, or leaning on desks for long periods of time.

Weaver's bottom (ischial bursitis). This is often caused by sitting on hard surfaces or hard chairs for a long time.

Shoulder bursitis (subacromial bursitis). One of the causes of shoulder impingement syndrome when the area between the rotator cuff tendon and acromion is affected.

Septic bursitis. This is bursitis in a joint is caused by an infection, sometimes through a cut or graze over the joint.

What are the symptoms of bursitis?

Bursitis symptoms will depend on individual circumstances, the cause and the joint affected, but include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Inflammation
  • Tenderness
  • Stiff joints
  • Skin around the joint feels warm
  • Skin around the joint looks red.

What are the symptoms of septic bursitis?

Extra symptoms and signs of septic bursitis include:

  • Fever
  • Shivers.

Seek medical attention for septic bursitis for prompt treatment to relieve symptoms and to help avoid complications, such as a deeper infection of the skin called cellulitis.


Steps a doctor will take to diagnose bursitis can include investigating:

  • Symptoms
  • Any obvious causes - injuries, or work, sports or hobbies
  • Existing medical conditions
  • Physical examination
  • Joint fluid sample test
  • Blood tests
  • MRI scan.

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