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Demystifying Bursitis: Dispelling Common Misconceptions and Understanding the Facts

Bursitis is a common yet often misunderstood condition that can affect people of all ages. It involves inflammation of the bursae, small sacs filled with fluid that cushion and lubricate the joints, reducing friction between bones, tendons, and muscles. When these sacs become inflamed, it can lead to discomfort, pain, and limited mobility. Several misconceptions persist about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of bursitis. In this blog, we will address some of these misunderstandings and clear up the facts.

Causes of Bursitis

Overuse, injury, and infection: 

Bursae most commonly become inflamed due to repetitive motions of particular joints; this is observed in athletes, such as runners when joints undergo repetitive stress. An injury to the joint can also lead to bursitis, which causes inflammation of the bursae, pain, and swelling. In rare cases, bursitis can also be caused by bacterial infection. 

Frequently misunderstood causes:

Due to repetitive motions being the most common cause of bursitis, it is a misconception that only athletes can develop this condition. Bursitis can affect individuals with certain occupations that involve repetitive movements and prolonged pressure on specific joints. Another common misconception is that bursitis is a part of ageing. Bursitis can affect people of all age groups, especially those who are exposed to high-risk factors such as overuse or trauma to a joint. 

Symptoms of Bursitis

Pain, swelling, and redness:

The main symptom of bursitis is localised pain around the affected joint. This pain will likely increase with movement or pressure on the inflamed area. Inflammation of the bursae can lead to swelling at the site of the affected joint, restricting movement and causing stiffness. The skin over the inflamed bursa may become red and warm to the touch, indicating increased blood flow to the affected area. However, these symptoms are not indicative of bursitis, joint pain may indicate many other conditions. Proper diagnosis by a healthcare professional is essential to determine the cause of pain and develop an appropriate treatment plan. 

Treatment Options

Rest and the importance of physical therapy:

Giving the affected joint adequate rest is crucial in the initial stages of bursitis, this will allow the inflammation to reduce and pain to subside. In severe cases, anti-inflammatory medication may be used to help reduce inflammation. A reduction in symptoms from rest and medication leads some individuals to believe that the condition will resolve independently. However, untreated bursitis can lead to chronic pain and reduced joint mobility causing more severe complications. Physical therapy is beneficial in treating bursitis by focusing on strengthening the muscles around the affected joint with targeted exercises, correcting any biomechanical issues, and preventing future flare-ups.  

Injections and Surgery:

Most cases of bursitis can be effectively managed with conservative approaches such as rest and physical therapy. Anti-inflammatory medications may be used in severe cases if symptoms do not improve. It is a misconception that cases of bursitis need further treatment, such as injections or even surgery. Corticosteroid injections can provide relief from bursitis symptoms by reducing inflammation, however, reliance on cortisone injections can lead to potential side effects, and they should be used judiciously as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Surgery is reserved for cases where other treatments have failed or in the presence of complications. Therefore, the implementation of injections and surgery should only be considered a last resort when treating bursitis.


While bursitis can be painful and disruptive, appropriate treatment can often lead to a full recovery. A proactive approach to joint health is key to maintaining an active, pain-free lifestyle. Seeking professional medical advice, adopting preventive measures, and addressing symptoms promptly can contribute to better management and improved outcomes for individuals with bursitis.

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