Anyone who suffers from achy joints knows the toll it can take on a person’s body. There are many possible causes for joint pain, including injury, infection, deterioration of the joints, autoimmune disease, and inflammatory conditions. One of the most common culprits of achy joints is bursitis, a painful condition that’s caused by the inflammation of the bursa: small sacs of fluid that lubricate and cushion the area where ligaments, tendons, muscles, skin, and bones come together at your joints.
If you have achy joints, read on to see if bursitis could be to blame and what you can do about it. Your joints long-term health will thank you.
Those who do the same motion over and over again such as typing, cleaning, factory work, using certain tools, sports, or even gardening are more likely to get bursitis on the joints involved. The repetitive motion and overuse of the joints can cause swelling. Examples might include repeated lifting or throwing a baseball.
Also, those who place pressure on a certain body part for long periods of time are at a greater risk for developing bursitis. This pressure can often come via a job, sport, or some other normal daily activity. Folks who are at risk for bursitis-inducing activities include roofers or carpet layers who are on their knees all day, those who play a musical instrument, or those who sit on hard surfaces for long periods.
A third cause of bursitis that no one likes to hear about is normal aging. As you age, the bursa between the joints simply begins to break down. It’s a normal part of life that can cause some abnormal pain.
Finally, bursitis can be the result of an injury to a specific joint or related to arthritis, gout, diabetes, or infection.
Joints affected by bursitis will feel stiff and achy. They may be tender or painful to the touch and the surrounding skin may look swollen and red and feel warm.
Bursitis is most common in the elbow, hip, knee, and shoulder. It can also affect the heel near the Achilles tendon, in the foot, or big toe.
If your joint pain is slowing you down or causing shooting pain; if you’ve had pain for more than two weeks; if there is redness, swelling, a rash, or bruising in the area; or if you have a fever, see your doctor.
For mild cases of bursitis, home treatments usually relieve pain and heal the bursa within a few days or weeks. Rest the affected joint by avoiding activity or direct pressure. Apply ice to the area for as needed, or alternate ice and heat for the first three days. To reduce inflammation and pain, take ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen as directed. Just don’t overuse the joint while the pain is relieved. In addition, performing daily, gentle range-of-motion exercises will help prevent stiffness and strengthen surrounding muscles. When working to overcome bursitis, keep in mind that tobacco smoke will delay healing.
If home treatments don’t help, you may need additional tests. Your doctor may need to drain the fluid, give a steroid injection, recommend physical therapy, or perform surgery to remove the bursa. If the area has become infected, antibiotics may be prescribed. Without proper rest and treatment, chronic bursitis may develop.