What is Bursitis?

Michelle Labonia

Experiencing sudden or ongoing pain, heat or stiffness in the shoulder or hip? Bursitis could be to blame. Typically occurring in (but not limited to) these areas, this uncomfortable condition refers to inflammation of any of the body’s many bursa – small, fluid-filled sacks that provide cushioning and lubrication between a bone and joint, tendon, muscle, ligament or skin to allow smooth, pain-free motion.

When one of these sacks is inflamed, it hinders, rather than helps, movement. A swollen bursa takes up more space, resulting in increased friction and pressure, and painful, restricted movement.

What are the symptoms of bursitis?

If you are experiencing pain, swelling and/or heat in or around a joint, stiffness, reduced range of motion, sharp or shooting pain with movement, or pain at night that disrupts your sleep, you may have an inflamed bursa.

Why does bursitis arise?

A common overuse injury, bursitis is often seen in individuals whose job or exercise regime involves frequent, repetitive actions. For instance, shoulder bursitis (subacromial bursitis) may be found in a house painter, and hip bursitis (trochanteric bursitis) in a dancer. Also at risk are those who attempt to achieve too much too soon at the gym or on the sports field, without possessing adequate strength, mobility and the correct technique, or allowing enough time off for recovery.

When not brought about by frequent repetitive actions, bursitis can instead result from direct trauma, such as a car accident or a jolting fall. It is also more prevalent in those with chronic health conditions including rheumatoid arthritis.

Where does it occur?

The most common types of bursitis are subacromial – occurring between the rotator cuff tendon and acromion (bone on the tip of the shoulder), and trochanteric – occurring on the lateral surface/ outside of the hip. Inflammation to the knee, elbow and Achilles/heel bursae are also common. However, bursitis can strike anywhere a bursa is present – and there are over 100 throughout the body!

How is bursitis diagnosed & treated?

Your physiotherapist will determine your condition by assessing the joint/ muscle and surrounding areas, while taking in your medical history to rule out other potential contributing factors. Further investigations such as an ultrasound or MRI may be required.

The first steps of a bursitis treatment plan will typically include anti-inflammatories, soft tissue massage, and ice for relief. If the condition is chronic, a cortisone injection may be beneficial.

Your physiotherapist will also determine and address the causes of your bursitis for long-term and preventative management. This may involve creating a treatment plan to overcome biomechanical/muscle weakness issues with strengthening exercises and stretches, education to improve sporting technique, and lifestyle changes to reduce repetitiveness of tasks.

If you feel like you may be suffering from bursitis, call The Alignment Studio today on 9650 2220 to get your rehabilitation under way.

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