Bursitis elbow treatment at the Naas & Newbridge Physiotherapy and Chiropractic Clinic


KFM Radio Interview

Ross discussing Bursitis. Press Play Below:


What is a bursitis?

Bursitis is an inflammation of a bursa. A bursa is a small fluid- filled sac that is lined with a lubricating fluid called synovial fluid. Bursae help to decrease friction between tendons & muscles at points where they glide over bones. These are generally at points of high stress where muscles insert into bones. Sample locations include the hip, achilles tendon, the knee (patella tendon), & also the insertion points shoulder ‘cuff’ muscles.

The bursa becomes large & swollen which means that any movement of the affected joint can cause pain due to irritation of this structure. The pain can be severe & disabling as the cushioning effect of the bursa is diminished. Inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis can be associated with bursitis due to the significant amount of inflammation present with these conditions. This can frequently effect the knees.

What Causes Bursitis?

Repetitive poor movement patterns:

If a joint is repetitively moved in an unhealthy manner such as occurs with limping or poor posture then it can overload part of the muscle-tendon unit. This can create repetitive friction on the underlying bursa and progressively give rise to inflammation characteristic of the condition.


Bursitis may also develop following a significant blow to the shoulder as may occur with falls, contact sports or car accidents. In this case a sudden inflammatory response leads to acute pain and difficulty lifting the arm up overhead. Of course, with a trauma, other causes of shoulder pain need to be ruled out, such as fracture or dislocation.

Rheumatoid Arthritis:

Body-wide (systemic) inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, infections, scleroderma or gout can also cause bursitis.

Where does a bursitis normally occur?:

  • Shoulder (subacromial bursa)
  • Elbow (olecranon bursa)
  • Hip (trochanteric bursa)
  • Knee (patella bursa)
  • Ankle (calcaneal bursa)

What are the Symptoms of Bursitis?

The symptoms of a bursitis can also mimic conditions such as frozen shoulder and when more severe bursitis can limit range of motion at the affected joint.

Pain is commonly associated with heat, redness & swelling in the area surrounding the bursa, although this can be quite subtle & difficult to spot to the untrained eye. Due to the fact that bursitis is something that develops over time due to mechanical overload, the physiotherapy assessment needs to identify potential triggers.

What would a physiotherapist look for during assessment?:

  • Limping
  • Abnormal movement around the affected joint
  • Muscle weakness
  • Impaired flexibility requires a thorough rehabilitation protocol to correct it.

What is the Best Treatment for Bursitis?

Initially, the goal is to bring the inflammation under control as soon as possible. This may require a short period of rest from aggravating activities. As with any inflammatory condition, heat should not be applied as this may act to increase inflammation. Anti-inflammatories may be trialed for a number of weeks but their effectiveness is limited due to the fact that the bursa has a poor blood supply.

In chronic bursitis where repetitive overuse is the primary driver of the condition, then an in-depth analysis of posture and movement patterns at the involved joint is required. A physiotherapist specialises in identifying patterns of movement that may have given rise to bursal stress. It is important to address these in order to prevent reocurrence of the condition.

If inflammation of the bursa occurs secondary to infection then your doctor may remove some of this fluid with a syringe (aspirate). Antibiotics will then be required to manage the infection. This type of bursitis is very uncommon. 

Traumatic bursitis is likewise treated by aspiration. In athletes, it is important to protect the area upon return to sport by application of padding to the involved area.

To find out more regarding bursitis, contact Naas Physio Clinic on:
(083) 1960344

or email us at info@physioclinic.ie[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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