The muscles and bones of the body work together like a smoothly oiled machine. Some of the “oil” is provided by fluid-filled sacks called bursae. Bursae are strategically located in areas where muscles, ligaments, and tendons might otherwise rub against bones. The smooth surface of a bursa allows tissues to move across each other without friction.
Bursae, however, can become inflamed, leading to a condition called bursitis. One of the main causes of bursitis is repetitive motion. Excessive pressure, such as that caused by prolonged kneeling, can also injure a bursa. More rarely, gout, arthritis, and certain infections can cause bursitis.
Bursitis occurs most commonly in the hip, knee, elbow, or heel. Symptoms include tenderness, swelling, and pain with motion.
Conventional treatment involves resting the affected area and using anti-inflammatory drugs. If an attack of bursitis does not respond to this treatment, drainage of the bursa and injection of corticosteroids may be used.
Various practical steps can help prevent bursitis. Using knee pads can protect the bursa of the knee from pressure injury. Exercises that strengthen the muscle around a joint are thought to reduce stress on the bursae in the area. Finally, it is important to break up repetitive movements with alternative movement patterns as well as periods of rest.