Bursitis is a condition in which the small sacs of fluid, also referred to as bursae, which provide lubrication and cushion to the areas between the tendons and bones, become inflamed. Bursitis of the elbow occurs when there is too much pressure or friction placed on the bursa as a result of repetitive action or trauma. Sufferers of bursitis complain of pain in the elbow that can be accompanied by tenderness, swelling and /or a feeling of warmth to the touch. Certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and in some cases a bacterial infection can lead to bursitis of the elbow. If there is suspicion that the bursitis is caused by a bacterial infection, a portion of the fluid in the swollen bursa will be removed with a needle to determine if bacteria is growing and if antibiotics need to be administered.
Aspiration is a treatment technique in which a needle is inserted into the inflamed bursa and excess fluid is removed. Aspiration is typically followed by compression.
Compression is a treatment method that can be used on its own or following aspiration. When an individual is not applying ice to the inflamed bursa, an elastic compression bandage is used to steady the area and reduce the likelihood of exacerbating the inflammation.
Depending on the nature of the bursitis, a strong anti-inflammatory such as a cortisone injection may be used to reduce pain and swelling. This may or may not be a permanent fix.
If the bursitis is not caused by a bacterial infection physical therapy may be recommended. Physical therapy is used to strengthen the muscles in the affected area in order to relieve tension and ultimately reduce pain.
Surgical removal of the bursa may be recommended if the bursa is infected and neither removal of fluid or antibiotics has had an effect. Surgery consists of removing the entire infected portion of the bursa. The bursa will grow back healthy in the months following treatment.