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Bursitis Pain

A bursa is a pocket or sac of fluid. There are many bursas found all over our body and can act like cushioning around bones and muscles. These bursas can become irritated causing the pocket of fluid to increase in size which at that point becomes known as bursitis (inflammation of the bursa). When these bursas are enlarged, they push on surrounding muscles, bones, and tissue resulting in pain. The most common bursas that cause pain are located around:

  • Shoulders

  • Elbows

  • Knees

  • Hips

What can cause bursitis pain?

  • Overuse injury/repetitive use

    • Activities that require frequent throwing, hammering, kneeling, lifting

  • Long periods of pressure on bursas

    • Such as kneeling on knees when cleaning floors or doing carpentry work 

  • Trauma

    • Hitting the bursa or injuring muscles or joints around the bursa can cause irritation

What type of pain can you experience with bursitis pain?

  • Achy throbbing pain

  • Dull pain

  • Sharp, stabbing pain

  • Tenderness over bursa

  • Pain over the shoulder or hip when lying on that side

  • Limited movement due to pain

What type of risk factors increase your chances of bursitis pain?

  • Age

    • Chances of getting bursitis increases with age 

  • Injuries to joints or muscles

    • Hip arthritis can cause hip bursitis (trochanteric bursitis) or a rotator cuff tear can cause shoulder bursitis (subacromial bursitis)

  • Trauma

    • Car accidents, contract sports

  • Overuse injuries

    • Repetitive long term activities especially in professions that put a lot of strain on their shoulders, elbows, knees, or hips

How can our St. Louis pain doctors help diagnose your bursitis pain?

  • Thorough history and physical exam

  • Ultrasound

    • Used to find areas of inflammation

  • Xray

    • Used to rule out other causes of pain 

  • MRI 

    • Used to rule out other causes of pain

What are your treatment options?

Bursitis can often times be overlooked or missed when evaluating shoulder pain, knee pain or hip pain. At Saint Louis Spine and Joint Pain Specialists, our pain management physicians are exceptionally experienced at identifying the true source of your pain such as bursitis and can accurately treat that pain for maximum pain relief. Treatments include:

  • Cold packs/ice application

  • Rest

    • Taking a break from the activity that is causing the bursitis can decrease the inflammation

  • Bursa injections

    • Significantly improves pain and swelling of the bursa

  • Drainage of the fluid

    • Some bursas like the elbow can be drained to provide relief

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

  • Physical therapy

    • Helps improve range of motion of painful areas and strengthens muscles to relieve tension on the bursas

  • Skin creams, ointments and patches


What can you do to decrease bursitis pain?

  • Stretching

    • Stretching can increase flexibility and prevent injury that can irritate bursas

  • Strengthening muscles that take pressure off the bursas

  • Modifying activities that increase pain

    • Avoid kneeling on hard surfaces by placing a soft cushion on the ground when gardening or doing carpentry work

For more information or to discuss an appropriate treatment plan for your bursitis pain with one of our specialized pain management physicians, call Saint Louis Spine and Joint Pain Specialists today.

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