What is it?
are small sacs of fluid found throughout the body. These bursae produce
synovial fluid and act to reduce friction between muscles, tendons, ligaments
and bones as they move over each other. Bursae are located at strategic points,
typically where there are higher points of stress. If a bursa is injured or
irritated, it can become inflamed, painful, red and swollen and this condition
is referred to as bursitis.
bursa that is commonly affected is the olecranon bursa, which sits just over
the hard bony process at the base of the elbow. Olecranon bursitis refers to
inflammation of the bursa at this point and is a common condition, particularly
in men between the ages of 30-60.
What causes it?
Olecranon bursitis has a few different causes
including trauma, overuse and infection. A sharp blow to the elbow, through a
fall or hit, might damage the bursa leading to bursitis. In other cases, the
bursa can be infected by bacteria, which enter the body through a small skin
Bursitis can also develop
slowly through friction of the nearby muscles that cause the bursa to become
irritated and inflamed.
What are the symptoms?
hallmark of this condition is a painful, red, swollen elbow. Typically pain is
worst when resting on the tip of the elbow and/or with elbow movements,
particularly when bending or straightening the elbow fully. The pain often
lasts a few months and may not go away on its own. The pain may build up
gradually, or come on suddenly, depending on the cause. Bursitis caused by
infection (septic bursitis) may also be associated with general feelings of
illness such as fatigue, fever and body aches.
What is the treatment?
As there are many different causes of this condition, accurate
diagnosis is essential. Your physiotherapist is able to distinguish between
olecranon bursitis and similar conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or
fibromyalgia. Septic bursitis will need to be treated by a medical professional
who will determine the best course of action.
All types of bursitis can be managed initially with a RICE
protocol to reduce pain and swelling (Rest, ice, compression and
elevation). Mechanical causes of
bursitis can require more in-depth identification of the factors that may have
led to the development of this condition.
Common contributing factors are
throwing technique, muscle tightness and/or weakness and training frequency.
Your physiotherapist is able to address these factors plus provide taping
support to unload the bursa along with manual therapy and an exercise program.
In most cases, conservative or
non-surgical treatment is attempted as the first line of treatment. If this is
unsuccessful, cortisone injections are often used to reduce pain and
inflammation. In severe cases where the pain persists despite all other
attempts at treatment, the bursa can be surgically removed in a procedure
called a bursectomy. Once the pain has subsided your physiotherapist is also
able to help prevent any further recurrence.
None of the information in this article is a
replacement for proper medical advice. Always see a medical professional for
advice on your individual injury.