OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What is bursitis?

Bursitis is not a condition that you develop if you are extremely cold (Brrr-sitis, get it?).  Bursitis is a painful condition that can dramatically impact your daily activities.   A bursa is a fluid filled sack that functions to reduce friction between body parts.  There are several major bursas throughout the body and multiple smaller ones.  Almost any place that soft tissue rubs against bone, a bursa is there to reduce friction and to make movement easier.  When a bursa becomes inflamed, bursitis develops along with subsequent pain, swelling and restricted movement.  In the running and walking population, bursitis tends to occur in the big toe, heel, knee and hip.

Bursitis is exemplified by a swollen, painful cyst-like mass which at times can become considerably large.  In the big toe, the bursa under the toe (first metatarsal) where one pushes off can become inflamed.  In the heel, it usually occurs where the Achilles tendon attaches (calcaneus).  In the knee, it can occur on the front of the knee cap (prepatellar) , below the knee cap (infrapatellar) or behind the knee cap (retropatellar).  In the hip, it usually occurs just behind the hard bony prominence (greater trochanter) on the outer upper leg.  Bursitis typically develops from overuse and in that regard is similar to tendonitis (inflamed tendon).  For a proper diagnosis, be sure to consult with your primary care physician.

Treatment for this condition includes rest, medications, stretching, strengthening, physical therapy, new shoes, over the counter or custom orthotics, or draining with a needle (aspiration).  The goal of these interventions is to reduce inflammation and pain, decrease the stress to the bursa through flexibility and strengthening of the involved structures, minimize biomechanical faults and reduce the chance for recurrence.  Some of the best ways to avoid developing bursitis are to stretch and strengthen vulnerable areas regularly, perform cross training, avoid worn out shoes, and use of inserts or orthotics.