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Just What is Bursitis?

April 10, 2019

Bursitis is a common condition. But what is it exactly? You might have a friend that has bursitis of the hip, but you’ve just been told that your shoulder pain is bursitis as well. Nat Fyfe’s elbow guard is because he has bursitis of his elbow. So just what is this bursitis that seems to be able to effect so many joints?

The ‘itis’ in ‘bursitis’ means inflammation, so bursitis means inflammation of a bursa. So what is a bursa?

There are bursae all over the body. They are small pockets of fluid who are there to cushion and to prevent friction. For example the most commonly affected bursa in the hip sits between a knobbly bit of bone on the outside of the hip (the greater trochanter) and the tendons which run over the top of it, while the subacromial bursa in the shoulder prevents the rotator cuff tendons from being pushed into the hook of bone that sits just above the shoulder (the acromion).


While the job of bursae is to be squashed to provide cushioning, if they are squashed too forcefully or too repeatedly they become inflamed. When they’re inflamed they take up more space (so they are more easily squashed) and they are more irritable to being squashed. This can create a vicious cycle, where the inflamed bursa is easily irritated, which causes it to become more inflamed,which causes it to be more easily irritated etc.

Treatment of bursitis may include

  • Techniques to reduce inflammation
  • Protection of the bursa via taping, bracing and/or padding
  • Correction of muscle imbalances and technique issues that may be contributing to the pain

Bursitis usually responds well to these treatments. In some cases a cortisone injection may be necessary. Cortisone provides a fairly long-term anti-inflammatory effect, which can often reduce the pain significantly. It’s worth continuing rehab exercises even if the cortisone gets rid of your pain completely, as the biomechanical factors that caused the bursitis need to be addressed to prevent the pain from returning after the cortisone has worn off.

If you need help with treatment for bursitis, visit or physiotherapist in Aubin Grove today!

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