Bursitis? What is that?

You may have recently just consulted with your osteopath or physio who has then referred you for an ultrasound. They may have mentioned the possibility that you may have bursitis? Bursitis is often a painful condition that affects the joints. A bursae is a fluid filled sac that acts as a cushion between muscles, tendons, joints and bones. The role of these bursae is to reduce friction caused by movement around those joints.

Bursitis is a common condition that is often associated with over use or repetitive joint movements, but can also be caused by bad postures or walking habits, long standing strength or structural imbalances. It is also more common in those who are overweight, have some types of arthritis, elderly or diabetic, however it can also occur in healthy individuals.

Common sites of bursitis are:

  • Shoulder
  • Hip
  • Knee
  • Elbow
  • Ankle



  • Pain or tenderness around the joint, especially if pressure is applied.
  • Redness, warmth or swelling are usually uncommon but may be a sign of infection.

A diagnosis of bursitis is usually done through a thorough examination, which involves pressing around the joint and taking the joint through its ranges of movement. A referral for an xray or ultrasound is often used to confirm the diagnosis or to rule out the possibility of anything more serious.

The prognosis for bursitis is often excellent and will resolve, however it is important that you take the right steps as soon as you have your diagnosis. Treatment and management will often include:

  • Education on avoiding or modifying the aggravating movement or activity. This may include a biomechanical or postural assessment by your practitioner and looking for “why” it has occurred.
  • Ice in the first 48 hours may assist with pain management and initial inflammation, however may not be as effective long-term.
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medications in the short term may help to relieve the discomfort and reduce the inflammation.
  • Manual therapy may be used to help restore normal movement
  • Exercise and strengthening specific to the patient to address underlying imbalances and prevent reoccurrence. This may not be limited to the joint affected.
  • Cortisone injections can often be effective in the early stages to reduce pain and inflammation



Article by Dr Kane Theisinger