Bursitis - Causes, Symptoms, Who are at Risk and Prevention
Health Education


Dr.Arindam Banerjee profile Authored by Dr.Arindam Banerjee on 3 Nov 2014 - 10:44.

Bursitis is the inflammation of the joints due to the thickening of the synovial membrane, which secretes the synovial fluid. The synovial fluid helps to lubricate and gives a cushioning effect to the joints. Bursitis mainly affects joints of the knee, hip, shoulder, heel, elbow and others too. There are more than 150 bursae (small sacs) in the human body. In most of the cases, with the right treatment approach, one can recover in a few weeks. However, there are still strong chances of it relapsing.

Commonly, continuous physical stress and repetitive motions of particular joint causes bursitis. Following are few specific positions or motions that can affect bursae in a particular joint.

  • Several sports involving repetitive motion of particular joints like baseball, tennis, volleyball, football etc 
  • Sports persons, manual workers etc
  • Sitting on rough and uneven surface for longer periods
  • Wearing improper fitting footwear’s for a long time

Other causes may include:

Common symptoms of Bursitis may include:

  • Localized pain
  • Inflammation       
  • Reddening and warmth at the painful joints.
  • Pain on pressing or moving the joint.

When to see a doctor

See your doctor immediately in the following situations:

  • Severe joint pain 
  • Swelling and redness in the painful joint
  • Consistent fever

The diagnosis of Bursitis often involves assessment of medical history, physical examinations and certain tests and procedures. However, most of the times, physical exam alone can serve the purpose.

  • Assessment of medical history:  To look for probable cause like accident or injury, occupation, sports or hobby etc.
  • Physical examination: To look for visible signs like swelling, reddening and temperature, stiffness etc.
  • Imaging studies: Ultrasound, X-ray or MRI are done for accurate diagnosis.
  • Blood tests
  • Analysis of synovial fluid: Physical, chemical and micro-biological analysis.

As discussed, anyone with consistent physical stress to a particular joint or trauma / injury may get bursitis, some factors increase the risk. These may include:

  • An occupation that demands excess physical stress
  • Having any underlying medical condition like arthritis and diabetes

Usually, management of bursitis begins with conservative treatments like taking sufficient rest, some home remedies and conventional approaches like pain relieving medications and other methods as follows:

Drugs and medications: These may include common pain relieving medicines or antibiotics and moreover, in  case of severe pain, corticosteroid injection (at the painful joint) may be given to obtain instant relief.

Surgery: In severe cases, excision of the bursa is required

Alternative treatments:

Physical therapy: As a supportive approach, the expert may ask you to undergo certain sessions of physical therapy to lessen the pain and prevent its relapse by strengthening the muscles and joints.

Support devices: Certain support devices are helpful that may help one to walk, move hand or sit comfortably etc can be used to prevent the recurring pain with movement.

Use of DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide 70%): It is obtained from wood pulp and has ability to penetrate the skin and heal the damaged burase lining. It is recommended to apply it for thrice a day and progressively reducing the frequency to once a day if improvement is noted. 

Acupuncture: It uses art of pricking the fine needles at particular point to lessen the pain.


  • It is recommended to take powdered ginger once or twice a day (500 mg).
  • White Willow (ask an expert for preparation and take about 5 cups of tea, daily)
  • Boswellia (150 mg/ thrice a day)
  • Turmeric (375 mg two or three times a day)
  • Arnica (as recommended)
  • Glucosamine sulfate (500 mg two or three times a day)

Lifestyle and home remedies 

The following home care and remedies may help one to cope-up with the condition:

  • Taking sufficient rest
  • Applying ice on the affected joint, it reduces inflammation
  • Avoiding excess activity (especially repetitive)
  • Using support devices for daily activities to reduce physical stress

Dietary recommendations:

Foods to eat: 

  • Whole grains and high-fiber carbohydrates
  • Foods rich in vitamin B like banana, broccoli, spinach etc
  • Foods rich in vitamin C Example. Oranges, kiwi, tomato, apple, peach, strawberry etc.
  • Foods containing vitamin E such as almonds, green vegetables, pine nuts, papaya and more on
  • Several enzyme supplements like pineapple (bromelain), papaya (papain) etc.
  • Supplements and foods containing omega-3 fatty acid Example. Flake seeds, fish, nuts and eggs.
  • Multivitamin and mineral supplements (as directed by the expert) like magnesium

Foods to avoid:

  • Legumes such as beans and  soy beans
  • High-glycemic foods
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Candies and carbonated beverages
  • Added sugars like can juice, corn syrup, sorbitol etc.

Although the prevention of bursitis cannot be assured, certain measures can help to prevent bursitis or its flare-ups. They include:

  • Reducing excess pressure on knees by using pads on knees while performing the activity
  • Learning to lift the weight in proper way
  • Using a wheeled cart to carry heavy weights
  • Avoiding sitting still for longer time
  • Avoiding sitting on uneven or rough surface for longer periods
  • Eating healthy
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising daily.
*Disclaimer This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.