A bursa is a type of cushion which sits on or between the bony parts of your joints. This cushion contains liquid. This protects the joints from getting damaged. A bursa can become infected if it becomes overloaded. This is what is referred to as bursitis. The bursa then swells and this causes the radiating pain in your joint and the movement limitation you may experience. Long-term overloading is usually referred to as chronic bursitis.
Bursitis can also have other causes. For example, a distinction is made between chronic, acute and septic bursitis. An infection is acute if it’s caused by a fall or accident. We refer to it as septic bursitis if a bacterial infection is the cause.
The infection can occur in several places in your body. For example, you could have an infection in your:
Anyone can get it. However, older people are more prone to it because their tendons and muscles are more fragile. This will make the muscles rougher, which can also lead to an increase in irritations and infections. Bursitis is also more common in people who enjoy fanatic sports and people who walk a great deal as part of their daily work (postmen, nurses, police officers).
Bursitis may result in you suffering from:
- Red and warm skin around the joint.
- A swelling of the joint.
- Stiffness of the joint.
- Difficulty moving.
- A radiating pain. This often worsens at night.
- A fever.
If you have bursitis we would recommend you:
- Avoid overloading the affected joint. Avoid putting too much pressure on it and avoid activities which will put a great deal of strain on this joint.
- Keep the joint moving. This will keep your muscles from stiffening up.
- Adjust your working conditions if these are the cause of your infection. Please contact your company doctor to discuss this.
- Take painkillers if you’re in a lot of pain. Take a paracetamol as a basis and supplement it with an anti-inflammatory. Examples of anti-inflammatories are diclofenac, ibuprofen and naproxen. Carefully read the package leaflet before using these medicines and ask your GP or pharmacist for advice. That’s because these medicines can have side effects and it’s important that you stick to the correct dose.
You should contact your GP if:
- You develop a fever. Your body temperature will then be 38 degrees or above.
- Your symptoms have not improved after two weeks.
- Your symptoms have worsened.
- You are becoming increasingly unwell.
- You often have bursitis and it keeps coming back.
- The infection was caused by a hard blow and/or fall.
Your GP will then assess the infection and discuss the treatment options with you. For example, your GP could give you an anti-inflammatory injection to reduce the infection.
Was the infection caused by a bacterial infection? Then your GP can prescribe a course of antibiotics. Are you still suffering from symptoms afterwards, or are you becoming increasingly unwell as a result of the antibiotics? Then contact your GP again.
Surgery can clear the infection in very rare cases. The bursa is cleaned or removed during this type of surgery.