Basic Information

What is Bursitis?

Inflammation of bursa, a soft fluid-filled sac that serves as a cushion between tendons and bones. Bursae usually affected are near the shoulders, elbows, knees, pelvis, hips or Achilles tendons.

Bursitis signs and symptoms

  • Pain, tenderness and limited movement in the affected area with radiation of pain into the neck, arm and fingertips.
  • Severe pain with movement of the arm.
  • Fever (sometimes).


  • Injury to a joint.
  • Overuse of a joint.
  • Strenuous, unaccustomed exercise.
  • Calcium deposits in shoulder tendons with degeneration of the tendon.
  • Acute or chronic infection.
  • Arthritis.
  • Gout.
  • Unknown (frequently).

Risk increases with

  • People who are involved in vigorous and repetitive athletic training.
  • Exercise or sports participants who suddenly increase their activity levels ("weekend warriors").
  • Improper stretching or overstretching.

Preventive measures

  • Avoid injuries or overuse of muscles whenever possible. Wear protective gear for contact sports.
  • Appropriate warm-up and cool-down.
  • Maintain a high fitness level.

Expected outcomes

This is a common, but not a serious problem. Symptoms usually subside in 7 to 14 days with treatment.

Possible complications

Frozen joint or permanent limitation of a joint's mobility.

Bursitis treatment

General measures

  • RICE therapy (rest, ice, compression, and elevation of affected joint).
  • Apply ice packs to the affected area during a flare-up or after receiving injections in the joint.
  • After the acute stage, continued ice treatment (until inflammation subsides) or heat application may be recommended. If you use heat, take hot showers, use a heat lamp, apply hot compresses or a heating pad, or rub in deep-heating ointment.
  • Invasive therapy may include aspiration of the joint or surgical excision.


  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Cortisone injections into the bursa to reduce inflammation may be administered.
  • Pain relievers if necessary.
Information Brand Generic Label Rating
Motrin Ibuprofen
Naprosyn Naproxen


Rest the inflamed area as much as possible. If you must resume normal activity immediately, wear a sling until the pain becomes more bearable. To prevent a frozen joint (especially in the shoulder), begin normal, slow joint movement as soon as possible.


No special diet.

Notify your physician if

  • You or a family member has symptoms of bursitis.
  • Pain increases, despite treatment.
  • New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.

Last updated 27 May 2015


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