This is a statement we hear all too often in Physio clinics.

Bursitis is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed conditions affecting the musculo-skeletal system.

First of all, let’s define what a bursa is. A bursa is a fluid-filled sack that your body uses to decrease friction. They are typically found near where tendons attach to bone, such as at the elbow, kneecap, and outer hip, so that the tendon slides harmlessly over the bursa and does not get damaged by the hard surface of the bone. Bursitis is the condition that occurs when there is an inflammatory response in the bursa. This is fairly easy to recognize as there will be localized swelling, heat, redness, and the area will also be tender to pressure. Common locations for bursitis to occur are the kneecap (in skiers), the outer hip (in runners), the tip of the elbow (in carpenters) and the top part of the shoulder. An individual affected with a true bursitis will often still be able to move the body area with minimal pain or restriction, and usually only gets pain if the inflamed bursa has direct pressure on it.

If you do have true bursitis, treatment for this condition is quite simple. First, remove or avoid any direct pressure on the affected area. This will likely mean modifying the way you perform certain tasks such as how you kneel and where the pressure points are. Secondly some form of brace or support to alleviate the pressure from the affected region may be beneficial  This will prevent irritation of the many bursa-related problems at the knee and elbow. To help control inflammation in a bursa, use ice on the affected area for 10-15 minutes at a time, and for several times a day. Make sure the ice is making light contact only. It may be also of benefit to see your family physician regarding a short-term course of anti-inflammatories, these can be taken either by mouth or rubbed over the area.

Thirdly, if the inflammation persists for more than 2-3 days, you may need to pay a visit to your physiotherapist to determine if there are any surrounding factors such as muscle tightness or weakness that may have predisposed you to developing the bursitis in the first place. “Hands-on” manual therapy and appropriate exercises from your physiotherapist can help you fix any mechanical problems contributing to the bursitis. Once the mechanical problems are taken care of and the inflammation is resolved there shouldn’t be any more “acting up” to slow you down.