Bursitis may be caused by:

  • Injury to an area that contains a bursa
  • Repetitive stress on the bursa
  • Infection in a bursa
  • Long periods of pressure on a joint, such as leaning on elbows, sitting, or kneeling on hard surfaces
  • Health problems that cause inflammation in joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Repetitive motions, such as swimming, running, or tennis
  • A job that requires:
    • Repetitive motions, such as hammering or painting
    • Long hours in one position, such as a kneeling to put down carpeting
  • Contact sports
  • Sporting gear that is too tight
  • A puncture or deep cut that involves the bursa



Bursitis can cause:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Reddened skin
  • Warmth around the area of the bursa
  • Problems moving the nearby joint
  • Problems moving or weakness of the nearby limb


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.



The goal of treatment is to ease pain and promote healing. Choices are:

  • Supportive care, such as resting the area and applying cold compresses
  • Medicines to ease pain and swelling, such as pain relievers or steroids
  • Physical therapy to promote strength, flexibility, and range of motion

People who are not helped by these methods may need surgery.


To lower the risk of this problem:

  • Exercise regularly to keep muscles strong
  • Slowly increase the intensity and duration of activities
  • Use the right safety gear and methods when playing sports
  • Use proper safety equipment at work
  • Take breaks from repetitive tasks

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.