Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa. Bursa is a fluid filled sac, similar to a water balloon that provides a cushion between the bones, tendons and muscles in a joint (the point where two bones meet).

Multiple bursae are located all over your body near joints, commonly around your shoulders, elbows, hips and knees. Their function is to reduce friction between internal structures like muscles, tendons and bones on movement.

Bursitis is usually caused by the overuse of muscular joints, injury and very rarely, infections. Activities consisting of repetitive motions and positions can irritate the bursa. Some familiar examples of extended kneeling or prolonged leaning on your elbows are gardening, shovelling, scrubbing, carpet laying, raking, carpentry, playing a musical instrument and painting. Sportive pursuits like golf, tennis, throwing and pitching in baseball can also produce an impact.

Anyone can develop bursitis, but respective occupations and recreational activities, certain diseases (namely gout, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis) and older age, can increase your risk.

If you believe you may be suffering from bursitis, you may report of the following symptoms:

  • Pain at a specific site, on movement or by pressing on it

  • Local swelling and redness

  • The nearby joint may feel stiff with limited range of motion ​

Beware that your presenting symptoms can resemble those of other similar diseases. It is thus recommended that you consult a doctor from the Musculoskeletal and Sports Medicine Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital if:

  • You experience pain that interferes with your normal day-to-day activities

  • There is a sharp pain on exertion or during exercise

  • The pain lasts for more than a week or two

  • There is excess redness, swelling, bruising or rash in affected area

  • You get a fever

  • You experience soreness that doesn't improve

  • You have a recurrent episode of bursitis

In addition to these complaints, when you know you have certain medical conditions that generally increase your risk of infection, or if you take medications with the same effect (steroids), make it a point to seek medical advice early. ​

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

An initial diagnostic procedure will include a session where you will be asked to describe your complaints and give a medical history of your family. This will be followed by a physical exam of the affected area. After the tests your doctor will easily diagnose the medical condition.

On the other hand, many times the case is not so clear. To verify their evaluation, your doctor may require one or more of these:

  • Imaging tests: including X-ray, ultrasound or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

  • Analysis of fluid sample from bursa (extracted with a fine needle)

  • Blood tests to identify any infection​

Your treatment plan  may vary depending on the suspected cause and severity. Treatment prescribed to you may be:

  • RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) plan

  • Oral anti-inflammatory pills and painkillers

  • Local steroid injections

  • Temporary use of assistive device, for example, walking cane

  • Splints (a rigid material to support the affected area)

  • Physical therapy

  • Aspiration of bursa fluid when not improving or seems infected

  • Antibiotics could be added if infected

  • Surgical drainage and removal of the bursa itself ​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage. ​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.