What is bursitis?

Bursitis is the painful inflammation or irritation of sacs, called bursae, that appear in places where there are points of friction such as muscles, tendons or bones. The function of these bags is to help the normal movement of the joints and to avoid direct friction between them. Bursitis manifests itself, among other areas, in shoulders, knees, hips, pelvis, elbows, toes and heels.

There are two types of bursitis: acute or chronic. In the first, the affected joint acquires a reddish color and has a higher temperature than the rest of the body. It is painful and is usually caused by an infection or gout. In chronic, there is swelling and pain and the usual movement decreases, causing muscle atrophy and motor weakness.

What are the symptoms?

The characteristic symptoms of bursitis are pain and inability to perform certain exercises or usual movements in daily life. It can appear suddenly or progressively, something that the patient notices by movement and touch, as the skin surrounding the bursa is more sensitive than usual. The symptoms will depend on the affected area, but the most common are: joint pain and tenderness when pressing the area near the joint, stiffness and pain when moving the affected joint, and redness, swelling and fever of the area.

Causes of bursitis or why it occurs

Although the origin of this disease is often unknown, the main cause of bursitis may be overuse of a joint. Daily repetition of the same movement or overexertion of the joints can lead to this pathology. It can also arise from trauma, infections, wounds or as a consequence of other diseases, such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis.

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Can it be prevented?

It is possible to prevent bursitis by avoiding the successive movement that caused it. Another measure is to strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint or to warm up the area with exercises before starting physical activity.

What does the treatment consist of?

In most of the cases the bursitis disappears without applying a specific treatment. Even so, the specialist will focus on reducing pain and inflammation by prescribing anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids. In the case of acute bursitis without infection, the person should avoid overexertion, limit certain movements and apply cold to the damaged area to reduce swelling. If chronic bursitis is present, the treatment is similar, although since rest has no effect, more aggressive and direct methods such as intensive physiotherapy or corticosteroid injections should be used. In case of infection, the accumulated fluid should be removed and treatment with corticosteroids should be followed.