Feeling dull aching pain in one of your joints and is it stopping your normal flow of movement? It could be the result of a common condition called Bursitis. Pilates & Co’s instructor and qualified physiotherapist Jasmine explains.
WHAT IS BURSITIS?
Bursitis is an irritation and inflammation of the bursae (plural of bursa). A bursa is a fluid-filled sac, situated between bone and muscle or tendon to reduce friction and provide cushioning around joints.
Bursitis can either be acute (rapid onset) or chronic (slow gradual onset) in nature. Acute inflammation of the bursa generally occurs as a result of direct trauma, infection or inflammatory conditions such as gout or arthritis. Chronic bursitis can be caused by repetitive use or movement over time, or from abnormal movement patterns.
Common causes of bursitis:
- Trauma – falls, direct contact (hit)
- Various types of arthritis – rheumatoid, psoriatic
- Strain or overuse – repetitive movements (often work related)
- Prolonged pressure – kneeling, sitting on a particular joint
- Joint stress – compensation for altered movement patterns such as abnormal walking due to leg length difference
The symptoms of bursitis generally involve a dull aching sensation around the site of inflammation and restricted range of movement. This movement restriction is often caused by stretching of muscle and tendon over the affected bursa which causes a compressive force, and further irritation.
The diagnosis of bursitis is often made through a physical examination, review of symptoms and sometimes scans or blood tests. Often your doctor will recommend imaging such as an ultrasound or MRI if necessary to rule out further pathology such as muscle tear or tendinitis.
The treatment of bursitis primarily focuses on relieving pain and inflammation, treating an infection (if present) and correcting biomechanical factors to prevent future reoccurrence. In the short term, your doctor may discuss your suitability for anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen, Voltaren or Advil to help relieve pain and inflammation. To the same effect, ice can often be relieving for more superficial bursitis such as in the elbow, knee or heel.
Protecting the affected area is important to allow adequate time for healing. However, unlike a sprained ankle that is visibly painful and swollen, making you avoid certain movements – you can’t see bursitis, and this in itself makes it difficult to understand which movements and activities may aggravate your condition. In many cases, people seek help from health professionals like physiotherapists to learn the do’s and don’ts while recovering from bursitis. To prevent the reoccurrence of bursitis, physiotherapists can help with exercise rehabilitation which is very dependent on the type and severity of bursitis but may include stretching, strengthening (such as Pilates) and working on improving range of movement.
Jasmine is a trained physiotherapist, exercise physiologist and Pilates instructor. She takes classes at Pilates & Co on Friday mornings 8:30, 9:30 and 10:30am.