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Bursitis Facts

  • Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa, a tiny fluid-filled sac that functions as a gliding surface to reduce friction between bone and overlying soft tissues of the body.
  • An injury, infection, or an underlying rheumatic condition can cause bursa inflammation.
  • Bursitis is diagnosed by identifying swelling, tenderness, and pain with motion in the affected area.
  • Treatment of bursitis is directed toward reducing inflammation and treating any infection present.

Bursitis Overview

Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa. A bursa (the plural form is bursae) is a tiny fluid-filled sac that functions as a gliding surface to reduce friction between bone and soft tissues of the body. There are 160 bursae in the body. The major bursae are located adjacent to the tendons near the large joints, such as the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees.

Bursitis Causes

A bursa can become inflamed from injury, infection (rare in the shoulder), or due to an underlying rheumatic condition. Examples of bursitis include injury as subtle as lifting a bag of groceries into the car to inflame the shoulder bursa (shoulder bursitis), infection of the bursa in front of the knee from an abrasion or puncture wound (septic prepatellar bursitis), and inflammation of the elbow bursa from gout crystals (gouty olecranon bursitis). Sometimes tendonitis occurs associated with bursitis, especially in the shoulder.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/24/2015

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