Healthy Living

Is Bursitis a Chronic Ailment?

Is Bursitis a Chronic Ailment?

What is bursitis?

Bursitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the bursa. Once the bursa is inflamed, it starts swelling. It causes pain around the affected area. The condition affects any part of the body where there are bursae.

What is a bursa?

A bursa is a sac-like cavity filled with fluid. Bursae are located in the different parts of the body where there are joints between the muscles, tendons, or bones. The fluid contained in the sac is called the synovial fluid. They act as a cushion or lubricant to allow a smooth movement and prevent friction between the joints.

Have a question aboutBursitis?Ask a doctor now

The condition can affect different parts of the body like the knee, shoulder, hip, ankle, or buttocks. It is a condition that keeps on coming back because of the high number of its causes. You cannot completely get rid of bursitis. The best measure is to know how to control the condition.

Types of Bursitis

The following are the types of chronic bursitis depending on the affected area:

Olecranon Bursitis

It is a condition that affects the olecranon, which is also known as the barfly’s or miner’s elbow. This condition happens when the outer upper part of the elbow is affected. It may be as a result of a repetitive motion or blow on the elbow. Activities such as hand gripping or wrist-turning contribute to the inflammation of the olecranon bursa.

Once there is an injury to the bursa, it causes an extra accumulation of fluid that leads to swelling. Some of these injuries cannot heal completely. They keep on bringing back the swelling of the bursa, especially when the elbow is engaged in too much motion. Gardeners, carpenters, and painters are mostly affected.

Prepatellar Bursitis

It is a condition that causes inflammation of the bursa that is located around the kneecap or the patella. The inflamed bursa causes swelling around the knee. It causes a lot of pain, which makes it difficult to lift the knee and to walk.
Overusing the knee is one of the causes of olecranon bursitis. This condition may also be as a result of climbing stairs in long distance. The inflammation keeps on coming back once you overuse your knee. It happens more often when your muscles are weak.

Subacromial or Subdeltoid Bursitis

It is another type of chronic bursitis that affects the bursae located on your shoulders. It causes inflammation and swelling of the bursa, which results in pain around the shoulder. The condition causes problems when moving the shoulder.

There are other different areas affected by bursitis. They are:

  • greater trochanter
  • ischial (weaver’s or tailor’s bottom)
  • retrocalcaneal
  • suprapatellar 
  • pes anserine bursa

Signs and Symptoms

  • A lot of pain around the joints, especially during motion or compression.
  • Swelling of the affected area, which may last for a very long time.
  • Motion around the joints is limited.
  • Warmth, erythema, and pitting edema over the affected area.


Acute bursitis is diagnosed differently and with care.

  • Lab tests - the doctor will do a comprehensive clinical evaluation starting from the history of the patient to the testing of blood and body fluids.
  • Aspiration - is done when the doctor suspects a certain infection to be the cause of the condition, e.g., if bursitis is crystal-induced.
  • Imaging - can be done through an MRI and ultrasonography for deep bursitis.

Those patients who show swelling or inflammation over a bursa will have superficial bursitis. Deep bursitis is present in people who have pain that can’t be explained and becomes worse with movement. The diagnosis of deep bursitis can be confirmed by the use of an MRI or ultrasonography. Imaging is done to exclude other causes or to confirm suspected bursitis.

Causes of Chronic Bursitis

  • Acute overuse of the joints that causes a continuous inflammation of the bursa.
  • Inflammatory arthritis
  • Injuries - where a person experiences a great trauma around the bursa. This trauma causes an inflammation even with very little movement of the bursa.
  • Acute infections


  • antibiotic use
  • surgery
  • rest

The type of antibiotic that will be given will depend on the type infection, which in turn is decided by the result of the culture tests. Infectious bursitis needs the bursa to be excised and drained along with the administration of antibiotics. The treatment for an acute non-septic bursitis includes rest or not moving the affected body part and prescribing analgesics or NSAIDs. As the pain lessens, voluntary movements can be possible.

Living with Bursitis

Bursitis of the shoulder becomes a major problem if the shoulder becomes difficult to move. It is very important to do stretching every day to increase the range of motion. Stretching helps in freeing up the movement of the shoulder. Bursitis can be quite painful and it would be prudent to see the doctor as soon as possible to stave off any stiffness in the joints or other chronic conditions. It is vital to rest the joint or limb until motion is pain-free. Not giving it adequate rest could degrade proper healing. Here are some things you can do if you have bursitis:

  • Any kind of activity that is painful must be avoided and the painful area must be rested.
  • Apply an ice pack to the affected area once or twice a day.
  • If the pain becomes worse, then see your doctor immediately. Do the same if there is redness or swelling.
  • Avoid all repetitive motion in any part of your body.  
  • Any strenuous exercises or workouts must be preceded by a warm-up with gentle movements.

Follow-up After Treatment

After you visiting your doctor, make an effort to change the reason why you suffered bursitis such as wearing a different pair of shoes or using pads on your knees when kneeling. Rest the painful area, apply an ice pack at least twice daily, and keep the affected area elevated. A week later, visit your doctor again for a fluid removal, if needed.

The Bottom Line

Chronic bursitis is mostly seen in aged people from the age of 40 years and above. The condition can last for months and can frequently come back.