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Bursitis is a painful condition characterised by swelling and inflammation of the joints. It most commonly presents in hips, knees, elbows and shoulders.

By Able Health I Medically reviewed by Dr. Alireza Estedlal

Page last reviewed: February 2024 I Next review due: February 2026

What is Bursitis?

Bursitis is the inflammation ofsmall fluid-filled sacs known as bursa or bursae. These are found in the spaces between bones.


The usual symptoms of bursitis are:

  • Feeling stiff or painful
  • Pain after moving or pressing the affected area
  • Appears red and swollen

If an infection occurs along with thebursitis, then you may experience a few additional symptoms like:

  • Further discolouration or redness
  • Feeling heat or warmth in the effected area
  • Chills
  • Fever


Some activities which can cause bursitis are:

  • Repetitive motions such as carrying heavy loads or throwing a ball
  • Poor body position or posture
  • Certain injuries and infections
  • Instrument playing
  • Playing sports high impact repetitive sports
  • Shovelling
  • Scrubbing
  • Raking and gardening
  • Carpentry
  • Painting

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Risk factors

Bursitis can happen to anyone, but some categories of people are at a higher risk of developing symptoms:

  • Musicians
  • People who do extreme manual labour or physical work
  • Athletes

People with specific health conditions are at risk of bursitis, such as:

  • Thyroid disease
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammatory arthritis


Here are some best ways for prevention of bursitis:

  • Learn the correct posture and techniques for work activities and sports
  • Don’t kneel or sit for too long as it exerts extra pressure on the joints
  • Make use of pads and cushions for kneeling and elbow leaning
  • Take frequent breaks from repetitive tasks


Most of the time bursitis subsides on its own, but if your doctor advises, they may prescribe treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications or corticosteroids.

If there is no infection, it is advised to put ice on the joint and reduce movement of the affected area.


For more aggressive Bursitis, the treatment is the same, but you may require some further intervention or physical therapy.

What will happen if you leave bursitis untreated?

If bursitis is left untreated for a long time, it will put extra stress on the affected area. As a result, the recovery will take longer. This may lead to a higher risk of it coming back. This is called chronic bursitis

What is chronic bursitis?

When you develop frequent recurrences of bursitis in the same spot it leads to chronic bursitis. Due to repeated flare-ups the bursa may become damaged severely affecting joint mobility and function.

When to visit a doctor

You must consult with a doctor during:

  • Extreme joint pain
  • Sudden inability to move a joint
  • Rash, bruise, redness and swelling in a localised area
  • Shooting or sharp pain during exercise
  • Fever