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Arthritis, Bursitis & Tendonitis

Bursitis occurs when bursae - small sacs between bone and moving parts like skin, muscle, or tendons - become inflamed or irritated, preventing smooth gliding between moving parts. Tendonitis occurs when tendons - thick, fibrous chords that secure muscle to bone - become inflamed or irritated.


Tendons and bursae are located near joints. Inflamed soft tissues will often be felt by patients as joint pain. This will be mistaken for arthritis. Symptoms of bursitis and tendonitis are similar. They include pain and stiffness that gets worse when moving. Pain may be felt more at night. Almost any tendon or bursa in the body can be affected. Those located around a joint are affected most often. Tendonitis and bursitis are usually temporary. However, these conditions may come back often or become ongoing. They do not cause deformity, but they can limit motion.


The most common cause of tendonitis and bursitis is injury or overuse during work or play. This is particularly true if the patient is unfit, has bad posture or uses the affected limb in an awkward way. Sometimes an infection in the bursa or tendon will cause the area to be inflamed. Tendonitis or bursitis may be linked to other conditions. These include rheumatoid arthritis, gout, psoriatic arthritis, thyroid disease and diabetes.


Treatment of these two problems is based on the cause. If overuse or injury is the cause, the patient may be told to reduce or avoid a particular activity. Taking the right body position during problem activities is important in preventing the injury from coming back. A warmup before and correct posture during exercise is useful. Splinting the area, applying moist heat or ice, and using other forms of physical therapy are helpful. Medications can reduce inflammation and pain. Steroid injections into the area are usually helpful.

If there is an infection, an appropriate antibiotic will be given. Surgical procedures may also be required. Surgery for other forms of tendonitis or bursitis is not usually done.

Once tendonitis or bursitis goes away, preventing the condition from coming back is crucial. Proper conditioning, comfortable workstations, correct joint positioning, and splints or pads to protect affected areas are helpful.

Persistent pain should be treated by a physician.