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What is bursitis?

Dr Hélène Huot
Doctor

Bursitis is characterized by an inflammation of a synovial bursa. The purpose of the synovial bursae, which resemble small liquid-filled cushions, is to protect the bone, absorb direct impacts and facilitate the sliding of skin, tendons, muscles and ligaments without injuring them through friction with the underlying bone. The synovial bursae are found in joints that are frequently in movement, such as the elbows, wrists, knees, ankles, etc.

Causes

Bursitis is usually caused by repetitive or infrequent movements, which lead to significant irritation of the bursae. A trauma such as a fall or high-speed impact, along with overuse of the extensor or flexor muscles, carrying heavy loads repeatedly and repetitive athletic movements, are also risk factors for bursitis.

A number of groups are at risk of developing bursitis because of their work or a sport they practice. This is the case for manual workers or those who do assembly-line work, as well as musicians who play drums or string instruments, athletes who play tennis or other racquet sports, and golf or baseball players.

Symptoms

People suffering from bursitis feel pain inside or outside the affected joint, which can spread to the forearm and wrist, along with sensitivity to touch. There may be signs of inflammation, such as redness, heat, and swelling. Pain caused by bursitis can significantly limit movement.

Diagnosis and treatment

To diagnose bursitis, the doctor will first do a visual assessment of the affected area. They will ask the patient questions about the pain and may take a sample of the bursa fluid for analysis. To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor may request an X-ray, ultrasound or MRI. If one of these techniques confirms bursitis, the doctor may prescribe cortisone injection under fluoroscopy.

Imagix clinics are equipped with state-of-the-art imaging equipment that can help doctors diagnose bursitis and determine the right treatment.

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