Could Your Joint Pain Be Caused by Bursitis?

Joint pain is a common complaint, especially as we get older. Because arthritis is one of the leading causes of aching joints, you might assume it’s behind your joint pain. In some cases, however, your joint pain may actually result from bursitis.

It’s easy to understand how you might get the two conditions confused since many of their symptoms are similar. But they differ in both their causes and their treatments.

Dr. Jeffrey Miller of the Osteoporosis & Rheumatology Center of Tampa Bay explains more about how to tell when your joint pain is caused by bursitis and how it can be treated.

What bursitis is

Bursitis is an inflammatory condition. You have fluid-filled sacs called bursae (the plural of bursa) near your joints. These bursae act as cushions that restrict friction among joints, tendons, and muscles when you move.

When these bursae become inflamed, they swell up, making the movement of your joints more difficult and painful. 

Bursitis is more common among people who spend a lot of time in one position, who are obese, or who have rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes. Repetitive use of the joint, such as while on the job or playing sports, can also lead to bursitis.

The symptoms of bursitis 

The symptoms of bursitis are remarkably similar to those of arthritis. However, there is one specific difference: The swelling of bursitis is on the outside of your joint, while swelling associated with arthritis is inside the joint.

Other telltale signs of bursitis include:

Because bursitis can affect any joint, you may also have additional symptoms depending on the joint. For example, if your hip or knee joint is affected, your gait (or walk) may also be altered. 

People who spend a lot of time sitting, particularly on hard surfaces, are more likely to experience bursitis in their hips or knees.

How bursitis is treated

Fortunately, the pain of bursitis is treatable. For many people, simple treatments like rest and applying ice packs to the affected joints may provide relief. You can also take over-the-counter pain relievers, particularly non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Motrin® or Advil® (ibuprofen.)

You will likely also be advised to change whatever behaviors might be contributing to your bursitis symptoms, including avoiding lying directly on the affected joint and stopping any repetitive motions.

Bursitis tends to recur, so it’s especially important to make whatever changes you can to try to prevent it from returning. Physical therapy can also help by teaching you exercises that can strengthen the muscles around the joint.

Sometimes, these treatments won’t be sufficient to provide relief from your bursitis. In these cases, you may receive steroid injections into the bursae to reduce the inflammation. In other cases, you may even be a good candidate for surgery to either drain or even remove the bursae.

If you have pain in your joints, don’t just assume that it’s arthritis and you’re helpless to do anything about it. Call Dr. Miller at the Osteoporosis & Rheumatology Center of Tampa Bay or request an appointment online.

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