Healthy Living

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Bursitis?

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Bursitis?

Bursitis is a condition that affects many people around the globe who have no idea what is causing them pain or end up misjudging what might be wrong with their body tissues. Others might have a general idea of what bursitis is but cannot tell when they are suffering from it. This is because they don't understand its signs and symptoms.

Bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs near the joints that cushion and lubricate the bones, tendons, muscles, and skin, decreasing the friction and irritation between them. Inflammation of the bursa makes movement of the affected joint difficult.

Bursitis affects body tissue as a result of the inflammation of the bursa. The condition can therefore affect different parts of the human body that have bursae protecting them. There are over 150 bursae in the human body, but bursitis commonly affects the superficial bursae at the elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, and Achilles tendons. The signs and symptoms of bursitis are similar irrespective of its location. However, the nature and intensity of the symptoms may vary a bit depending on how long a person has been suffering the condition.

Signs of Bursitis

When the bursa is inflamed and becomes swollen, the signs are easily identified. These signs also worsen with the increase in the swelling of the tissues in the bursa. Depending on the position affected, it may appear severe. These signs may include:

  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Redness of the affected area
  • Hotness on the affected area when touched
  • Broken skin over the affected area

These signs may be severe in some joints such as the hip or shoulder joints, since they perform a lot of movements.

Bursitis can be identified through screening the inflammation of the bursa using x-rays and MRI techniques.

Symptoms of Bursitis

Since bursitis is a condition that affects tissue inside the body, it is accompanied by symptoms that might make it difficult for the patient to identify the problem. The complications may sometimes interfere with physical activities depending on the area of inflammation and stage of the condition.

One of the main symptoms of bursitis is the pain it brings. This pain is felt around the area of the affected tissue. With almost all the parts of the body susceptible to bursitis, pain is initially felt only when you make a movement involving the affected tissue. However, as the level of inflammation in the tissue increases, the pain becomes severe even without any movement involving them.

The intensity of pain can also be high depending on the part affected. For example, if one suffers bursitis on the hip, the pain develops very fast due to the great weight supported by the hip. It also becomes a problem to sleep on the side affected. A similar condition is also observed in case of shoulder joints.

If the condition affects the knee, it becomes difficult for a person to sleep with their knees touching each other. If it is on the shoulders, lifting or moving the shoulder becomes a problem because of the sharp pain.

The symptoms of bursitis are directly associated with the degree of inflammation of the bursa and its location. Initial symptoms that one can observe are pain and tenderness. If left untreated, swelling occurs, which makes the joint stiff and the skin over it appear red and warm. The pain can sometimes make it difficult to support the pressure of the weight of the body. 

Other Symptoms Include:

•    A shivery feeling

•    An increase in body temperature to about 38°C or higher

•    Tenderness in the tissues, especially when moving the affected part of the body

•    Difficult in moving the affected part of the body

Bottom Line

All these signs and symptoms of bursitis appear slowly and develop with time causing serious complications. They can also be easily mistaken for other conditions and complications. Identifying bursitis by its signs and symptoms is therefore challenging and requires time and attention. The most common causes of bursitis are repetitive motion or overuse of the joint, injury or trauma to the affected area, gout or infection, a problem related to the spine, and diabetes.

Certain activities like gardening or occupations like laying carpets or setting tiles, injuries like ankle sprains, and poor posture or spine-related problems can predispose an individual to bursitis.


Simple bursitis that is caused by injury can be treated at home with adequate rest. Avoiding movement of the affected areas is very important.

The treatment of bursitis depends on the extent of inflammation. The aim of treatment is to reduce the inflammation and treat the symptoms. If the bursa is not infected, it can be treated with simple procedures at home like ice compresses, rest, and anti-inflammatory painkillers. However, if the swelling is very bad, a joint aspiration is very important step to take. Aspiration involves a doctor removing the fluid in the bursa with the help of a syringe, both to remove the buildup of fluid and to have it analyzed for infection. If the bursa is not infected, cortisone is injected into the swollen bursa. This rapidly reduces the inflammation.

If the bursa is infectious, an aggressive approach is taken. Antibiotic therapy is given, and, if needed, it is administered intravenously. Repeated aspiration may also be required. If the case is severe, then the infected bursa sac is removed. The adjacent joint once again functions as normal after the surgery. However, if treatment is not done in time, the infected bursa can damage the adjacent joint, and the infection might spread.


If bursitis is caused by injury, it can be prevented by avoiding further trauma. If your work requires a lot of movement of the affected joints, you should wear something to protect and support them. However, the prognosis is generally very good. Sometimes, simple adjustments to one's activities leads to the desired outcome. However, an infected bursa needs to be treated with antibiotics and possibly surgey. If the bursitis is chronic and reappears, the bursa is excised.

Bursitis can be immensely difficult to deal with. It is highly advisable to go to a doctor and seek medical guidance because proper care and treatment are highly beneficial.