What Is Bursitis and How Do You Know if You Have It?

inflammation on elbow

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  • Bursitis is a condition that everyone must watch out for. If not treated right away, bursitis can seriously hamper your movement
  • When you’ve developed joint pain that lasts for two weeks and it worsens to a point where you can’t move anymore, visit a doctor immediately

Bursitis is a condition that everyone must watch out for, since everyone has bursae and the disease can appear at a moment’s notice. If not treated right away, bursitis can seriously hamper your movement. Worse, if it is caused by an infection, it can result in various health complications.

What Is a Bursa and What Does It Do for Your Body?

The bursa is a small sac that acts as a lubricant to reduce friction in a joint in your body. It acts as a cushion between bone and surrounding soft tissues, such as muscles, ligaments, tendons and skin, allowing your limbs to move freely without causing any pain.1

It’s estimated that there are around 160 bursae located throughout a healthy person’s body. Despite the large number, they are rather small; for example, the knee bursa has an average diameter of 4 centimeters, and a thickness of only a few millimeters. Other bursae located around your body come in different sizes, depending on where they are located. But one thing is for sure — they are thin and you hardly know they’re doing their job.2 There are two main parts that make up the bursa:3

  • Synovial membrane: The membrane makes up the entire bursa and it is semi-permeable. This means that certain substances can enter the membrane, such as blood.
  • Synovial fluid: This is the fluid that lubricates the interaction between the bones and muscles during movement. It is described as having an egg white appearance and texture.

What’s interesting about the bursa is that it develops at a later point in life, once you become more physically active. Newborn children have very few bursae, but once they reach around 7 years old, more bursae develop around the body as a result of a more active lifestyle.

Risk Factors of Bursitis You Should Be Aware Of

There are risk factors involved that influence your risk of getting bursitis. The most prominent are:4,5

  • Age: Older people have an increased risk of bursitis, especially on their shoulders.
  • Lifestyle choices: A sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk of bursitis, most likely due to the constant pressure applied on your bursa due to sitting or lying down for prolonged periods  at a time.
  • Occupation: Certain jobs that regularly put pressure on your joints can increase your chances of bursitis. Plumbers for example, can develop knee bursitis. Construction workers who lift heavy objects, on the other hand, can develop shoulder bursitis.
  • Athletes: Aggressive movements may damage your bursa over time. Injuries or direct blows to the bursa may also cause it to swell.
  • Certain medical conditions: Certain diseases that weaken your immune system, such as HIV/AIDS, and chronic inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis  and gout play a role in increasing your risk of bursitis.

Visit a Doctor Right Away if You Think You Have Bursitis

When you’ve developed joint pain that lasts for two weeks and it worsens to a point where you can’t move anymore, visit a doctor immediately. Other things to watch out for are redness, swelling and a fever, which may indicate septic bursitis. If ever you do notice these symptoms, have yourself checked up immediately, because it can be fatal if not treated right away.6

MORE ABOUT BURSITIS

Bursitis: An Introduction

What Is Bursitis?

Bursitis Types

Hip Bursitis

Elbow Bursitis

Knee Bursitis

Shoulder Bursitis

Heel Bursitis

Septic Bursitis

Bursitis Causes

Bursitis Symptoms

Bursitis Treatment

Bursitis Prevention

Bursitis Diet

Bursitis FAQ

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