Bursitis is inflammation of the bursae. Bursae are specially designed small sacs that are present around the joints and the neighboring structures such as the muscles, ligaments and the tendons. They are cushioning sacs that decrease friction between the joints and assist movement of the tendon over the bony surface.
Bursitis can be caused as a result of a number of factors. But the most common cause of bursitis is overuse of the joints, injury to the joints and associated conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout and osteoarthritis.
The most common joints affected by this condition are the hip, knee elbow and the shoulder joint. Hip and knee joints are the major weight bearing joints of the body, so they are more likely to be affected. The elbow joint and the shoulder joints are likely to be overused; hence the bursae surrounding these joints are more prone to be inflamed.
Any injury to the joint, such as a direct hit to the joint or in case of an accidental trauma to the joint, the bursae may be inflamed causing bursitis. Repetitive movements such as swinging a golf club or kneeling over to sweep the floors, or overuse of the shoulder in case of vacuuming may lead to bursitis.
Bursitis can also be caused as a result of arthritis. Arthritis is defined as the inflammation of a joint. When the inflammation spreads to the surrounding structures such as the bursae the person suffers from bursitis. So, depending on the cause of bursitis, recurrent attacks of bursitis can be prevented.
If bursitis is caused as a result of overuse of the joints, then the symptoms of bursitis disappear once the particular activity is stopped. Research has suggested that athletes or people involved in hard physical labor such as construction workers are more prone to develop bursitis as a result of overuse of the joints. Hence these people should always do warm up exercises and stretching exercises before undertaking any hard physical activity. The stretching and warm up exercises help in better joint mobility and prevent the risk of bursitis.
In order to protect the shoulders from bursitis, one must take periodic breaks from repeated activities such as vacuuming. People involved in professions such as gardening, carpentry or even household chores that require kneeling over in order to perform the tasks, should take repeated breaks and do stretching exercises. This provides the necessary rest to the joints and reduces the risk of bursitis.
Physiotherapists often advise knee exercises and thigh straightening exercises that promote stretching of the muscles and ligaments and thereby help in reducing the frequency of bursitis.
Bursitis of the ankles and the feet can be prevented by wearing comfortable footwear especially while walking and jogging, as it reduces the strain on the joints.
If bursitis occurs as a result of inflammatory conditions of the joints such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout, then the underlying cause is treated in order to prevent the recurrent attacks of bursitis.