What Is It?

A bursa is a membrane near a joint that acts as a cushion between the muscle and bone. The bursa reduces friction caused by movement and makes the joint more flexible.

Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa. It is a common condition that often happens when a joint is overused, such as when throwing a baseball or painting a wall. More rarely, bursitis can be caused by gout or an infection. Bursitis is more common in people who are overweight, elderly or diabetic, although it also develops in younger, healthy people without a clear reason.


Symptoms include:

  • Pain around such joints as the elbow, hip, shoulder and knee, especially if pressure is applied to the area or with use

  • Redness, warmth and swelling – These are less common and may mean the area is infected.


After reviewing your symptoms and recent activities, your doctor will examine you and press on the painful area to determine whether the pain is located over a bursa. Typically, your doctor will be able to move the joint through its normal range of motion, but if you try to move the joint yourself, you may not be able to move it as far because of pain. Your doctor also may order X-rays to check for other conditions. If you have bursitis, the X-rays will often be normal, although a small calcium deposit may be present. If your doctor suspects that gout or an infection is causing your bursitis, he or she may recommend that you have a test in which a sample of the fluid is removed from the bursa for analysis. This is a minor procedure.

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