Bursitis is the inflammation of one or more bursae (small sacs) of synovial fluid in the body. The bursae rest at the points such as muscles and tendons, slide across bone. Healthy bursae create a smooth, almost frictionless functional gliding surface making normal movement painless. When bursitis occurs, however, movement relying upon the inflamed bursa becomes difficult and painful. Moreover, movement of tendons and muscles over the inflamed bursa aggravates its inflammation, perpetuating the problem.


Bursitis is commonly caused by repetitive movement and excessive pressure. Bursitis symptoms vary from local joint pain and stiffness, to burning pain that surrounds the joint around the inflamed bursa. In this condition, the pain usually is worse during and after activity, and then the bursa and the surrounding joint become stiff the next day in the morning.

Common examples of bursitis are

  • Prepatellar Bursitis – “housemaid’s knee”
  • Infrapatellar Bursitis – “clergyman’s knee”
  • Trochanteric Bursitis – giving hip pain
  • Olecranon Bursitis – characterised by pain and swelling in the elbow
  • Subacromial Bursitis – which gives shoulder pain
  • Retro-calcaneal Bursitis- giving heel pain


Bursitis that is not infected can be treated with rest, ice, elevation, anti-inflammatory drugs and pain medication. Since bursitis is caused by increased friction from the adjacent structures, compression bandages should be avoided because compression would create more friction on movement (passive and active). Our Physiotherapists will often apply advanced massage therapy techniques to help with the inflammatory process of bursitis. Electrotherapy, such as Ultrasound or Shortwave Diathermy can also help greatly. In some cases steroid injections can be used to provide immediate pain relief and graduated lessening of symptoms.

Bursitis that is infected requires further investigation and antibiotic therapy. In cases when all conservative treatment fails, surgical therapy may be necessary. In a bursectomy the bursa is removed with  either keyhole or  open surgery. The bursa grows back in place after a couple of weeks but without any inflammatory component.


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