What is Bursitis?

What is Bursitis?

Bursitis is the inflammation of a bursa, a small, fluid-filled sac that provides cushion and lubrication between the body's tissues. The bursae are located near the body's major joints, including the hips, knees, shoulders, and elbows — any place where tissues are at risk of rubbing against each other or there is little overlying cushion.

Comparison of bursitis and a healthy joint


Bursitis occurs when a bursa becomes inflamed, usually through excess pressure or repetitive irritation due to overuse. Inflammation of the bursa results in pain that may be immediate or can build up over time. While it can be painful, bursitis can go away with proper treatment.

Types of Bursitis


Bursitis develops in joints involved in everyday use. Inflammation is most common in the shoulder, elbow, knee, and hip joints. Areas where bursitis can occur include:

  • Elbows (olecranon bursitis)
  • Shoulders (subacromial bursitis)
  • Knees (prepatellar bursitis)
  • Hips (trochanteric bursitis)
  • Feet (most commonly in the heel, big toe, or ball of the foot)
  • Buttocks (ischial bursitis)

Signs & Symptoms of Bursitis


Pain and tenderness, particularly around the joints, is the primary sign of bursitis. You may observe other symptoms of bursitis around the joints, muscles, and bones, including:

  • Pain, achiness, or stiffness, especially during movement
  • Swelling, particularly in the elbow or knee
  • Redness and warmth

Other bursitis symptoms can indicate a more severe issue. Contact an orthopedic expert if you experience:

  • Fever (could be a sign of a deeper infection)
  • Extreme swelling and heat in the area
  • Limited to no mobility in the affected joint
  • Pain that continues for more than two weeks

What Causes Bursitis?


Bursitis typically happens from overuse but can also be caused by direct pressure or trauma. Repetitive motions or remaining in one position too long can place pressure on the bursae, causing inflammation. Bursitis can be caused by everyday activities and conditions, such as:

  • Prolonged kneeling (while cleaning the floor or gardening)
  • Raking
  • Shoveling
  • Throwing a baseball
  • Playing tennis or golf
  • Running
  • Poor posture
  • Poor gait mechanics
  • Repetitive overhead lifting
  • Leaning on your elbows for extended periods
  • Bone spurs

Occasionally, infection or sudden injury to the area can cause bursitis. There is also a type of bursitis called septic bursitis, a bacterial infection of the bursa usually caused by injury to the overlying skin allowing bacteria into the bursa.

Risk Factors

Risk Factors

Anyone can develop bursitis. However, there are some factors and underlying issues that can increase a person's risk of getting it, including:

  • Age - People over 40 are more prone to developing bursitis
  • Occupation - Laborers, musicians, or athletes whose jobs involve repetitive motion are more at risk
  • Hobbies - Gardening, painting, or sports such as tennis
  • Pre-existing conditions - Other medical issues such as gout, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, and diabetes
  • Weight - Being overweight increases your risk of knee or hip bursitis

Preventing Bursitis


Bursitis is a common condition, but there are preventive actions you can take to reduce the chances of flare-ups. Most involve changing the way you do certain activities. Shifting positions and supporting your weight differently helps relieve pressure on the joints. To prevent bursitis, you can:

  • Change your position - Avoid sitting or kneeling for too long
  • Practice good posture - Especially when playing sports or sitting or standing for long periods
  • Rest - Take breaks from tasks that require repetitive motions or staying in one position
  • Start slowly when beginning a new exercise program
  • Use pads or cushions when kneeling or sitting
  • Maintain a healthy weight – This will help keep added pressure off your joints
  • Stretching - Always warm up and stretch before exercise or strenuous activity to decrease the pull on the tendons surrounding the bursas
Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Bursitis Care

Pain from bursitis can be persistent and disruptive, interfering with your day-to-day routine. The medical team at NewYork-Presbyterian is equipped to provide expert nonoperative and operative care for various orthopedic injuries, including bursitis. Whether you're an athlete or an avid gardener, don't hesitate to contact us. We can help you get back to activities you love.