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What Is a Bursa?

Bursa are fluid-filled sacs located throughout the body which help reduce friction between muscles, tendons, and bones. Bursa allow for tendons and muscles to slide smoothly over one another for ease of mobility.

What Is Bursitis?

Overuse and repeated pressures can cause an increased amount of fluid to accumulate in the bursa, causing it to become swollen. This swelling creates an inflammation known as bursitis. Pain occurs when the muscles and tendons cannot glide easily. The most common areas for this to happen are in the shoulder (see image to the left), elbow, hip, knee, or ankle.


To receive a diagnosis, a qualified healthcare professional in musculoskeletal disorders and podiatric medicine will perform a detailed examination of the involved area to reproduce pain and rule out other diagnoses. In some cases further diagnostic imaging may be needed.


Conservative (non-surgical) treatments are usually able to help with this condition. The first step is to rest the area to help reduce inflammation. After that, a qualified healthcare professional can guide you through further treatment options. Anti-inflammatory medications such as NSAIDS or corticosteroids may be used to help further reduce inflammation.

Treatment may include rest, ice packs, and anti-inflammatory medication. More persistent pain may be alleviated by cortisone injections as well as use of a cane or crutch to assist in walking. Other treatments may include needle aspiration of the bursa by a physician. Often, you will be referred to a physical therapist who can evaluate you and design a treatment plan to address your specific impairments and functional limitations.

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