When talking about sports injuries when playing sports, most people know what a fracture, sprain, or dislocation is. Other injuries are, however, less well known, like bursitis.
What is Bursitis?
Bursitis is usually confused with tendonitis, but they are different conditions. Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursae, which are small fluid-filled sacs that cushion bones, while tendonitis is the inflammation of the tendons, which attach muscles to bones.
Bursitis can be acute or chronic, with acute cases resulting from injury or infection and chronic cases resulting from long-term repetitive motion. Chronic bursitis can affect any joint that regularly undergoes repetitive motion. The body has about 160 bursae in the joints between tendons and bones, which help facilitate movement and lubricate the joint.
Can You Get Bursitis from Playing Sports?
Yes – in fact, the patients whom doctors often diagnose with bursitis are people who complain of pain after sports or fitness activities. Athletes are the people most likely to develop bursitis. Many sports require highly repetitive motions, like throwing a ball, jumping, running, or swinging a bat. These repetitive motions can irritate the bursa and cause bursitis.
Besides athletes, sports players, and fitness enthusiasts, people who often get bursitis also include:
- Hard labor and manual labor workers – These people do highly repetitive and stressful movements like heavy lifting, which may irritate the bursa and cause bursitis.
- New moms – Moms of newborn babies also experience bursitis from carrying their babies.
- Musicians, gardeners, crafters, and carpenters – These people are also susceptible to bursitis because of the repetitive nature of their joint use.
- Less active people – People who are not regularly active may irritate their joints easily while doing normal activities, like carrying groceries or exercising. They may strain their joints, which can lead to bursitis. This is why it’s important to start gradually when starting any new workout routine.
What Causes Bursitis?
Bursitis is often caused by repetitive actions, blunt trauma, or sudden movements that can damage the bursae. As a person age, their tendons become less flexible and more prone to injury, making jobs or sports requiring frequent joint use a risk factor for shoulder bursitis. Abnormal joint positions or conditions like arthritis can also irritate the bursae and lead to bursitis. Medications and infections can also be contributing factors.
Additionally, trauma or injury to the joint, inflammatory arthritis, infection, and gout can also cause bursitis. This condition is more common in older adults and those who perform frequent repetitive motions due to their occupation, sports, or hobbies. The most common causes of bursitis are repetitive motions like repeatedly lifting something heavy or throwing a baseball.
What are the Symptoms of Bursitis?
The first symptom of bursitis is pain. It often creates the following symptoms:
- Pain and tenderness in the affected joint
- Swelling and inflammation around the joint
- Stiffness and difficulty moving the joint
- Warmth and redness in the affected area
- Aching or stiffness that increases at night
- Limited range of motion
- Muscle weakness in the affected area
- Crunching or popping sensation when moving the joint
The symptoms of bursitis may vary depending on the location of the affected area and the type of bursitis. For example, if the bursitis is in the shoulder, you may experience pain and difficulty raising your arm. In the hip, you may have pain when walking or standing.
If you experience any of these symptoms, seeing a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan is important. Here are the symptoms that mean you need immediate medical attention:
- Disabling pain in the affected joint
- Sudden inability to move the joint
- Excessive swelling, redness, or puffiness
- A rash or bruising in the affected area
- Sharp or shooting pains
How is Bursitis Diagnosed?
To diagnose bursitis, your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam. They may take a sample of the bursa’s fluid to make sure an infection does not cause it.
Sometimes, a healthcare provider may also perform an ultrasound, X-ray, or other imaging tests to help diagnose bursitis. If the condition recurs or if an infection is suspected, more tests may be ordered, such as an MRI or blood test. Here are the ways bursitis is diagnosed:
What are the Treatments for Bursitis?
The first step to treating bursitis is to rest and avoid the activity that caused it to happen, as well as any activity that can cause pain. Bursitis is often a temporary condition; most of the time, resting the affected joint will be enough.
Depending on the results, your healthcare provider may also recommend applying ice to the affected joint for 15-20 minutes, two to three times daily, to reduce swelling. It’s also possible that your doctor may prescribe medications to reduce pain and swelling in the affected area. Over-the-counter drugs like naproxen and ibuprofen can help reduce pain and swelling. Also, different types of steroids are usually used to fight pain and irritation in the joint. If an infection causes bursitis, antibiotics will be prescribed.
If bursitis results from a sudden injury, a brace, splint, or sling can help keep the joint immobile and at rest.
In some cases, more advanced treatments may be necessary. Suppose none of the preliminary treatments work, and the pain remains or is a recurring problem. In that case, your healthcare provider may recommend a corticosteroid injection, physical therapy, or a combination of both. Physical therapy can help people who have problems with the joint’s range of motion. There are many different exercises, motions, and poses that can help regain comfort in the joint.
If different kinds of repetitive movements cause bursitis, occupational therapy may help determine the ways to reduce the stress on the joints.
If the bursa is still causing problems after six months to a year, make sure to contact your doctor, as they may suggest surgery.
How Can You Prevent Bursitis?
Prevention starts with understanding your limitations. When training or taking on a new sport or activity, prepare your body for the movement you’ll be repeating. Though you can’t prevent bursitis from happening – and in some cases, it cannot be prevented – it’s possible to reduce the risk that you expose your joints to. Here are some preventive measures you can take to avoid developing bursitis:
- Practice good posture – Maintaining good posture can help reduce stress on your joints and prevent bursitis. Try to keep your shoulders relaxed and your back straight.
- Take frequent breaks – If you have a job or activity that requires repetitive motions, take frequent breaks to avoid overuse injuries that can lead to bursitis.
- Stay healthy and keep a healthy weight – Carrying extra weight can put additional stress on the joints, increasing the risk of bursitis. Being underweight can also affect your joints, as your body may not have the necessary muscle mass to support your activity. Staying healthy and keeping a healthy weight by eating a proper diet, having regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and is protected through vaccinations can help you stay healthy and achieve a proper weight.
- Stretch before exercise – Before exercising or engaging in any physical activity, be sure to warm up and stretch your muscles to prevent injury. And before you exercise, slowly build up your strength and tolerance of the shoulder and joints. If you experience any pain while exercising, stop what you’re doing immediately. It’s important to build slowly.
- Strengthen your muscles – Strengthening the muscles around your joints can help prevent bursitis. Be sure to include exercises that target the muscles around the joints that are prone to bursitis.
- Use proper technique – When engaging in physical activity or lifting heavy objects, use proper technique to avoid unnecessary strain on your joints.
- Wear appropriate footwear – Wearing shoes that provide good support and cushioning can help prevent bursitis in the feet and ankles.
- Use kneeling pads – If you are kneeling for a long period of time, use padding to reduce pressure on the knees.
- Avoid repetitive motions – If possible, try to avoid repetitive motions that can cause bursitis or take frequent breaks to rest and stretch.
- Avoid carrying heavy loads – Carrying heavy loads put stress on the bursae on the shoulders, so as much as possible, avoid carrying heavy loads. Use lifting aids like trolleys, lifting straps, and sack trucks.
What are the Stretches You can do to Prevent Bursitis?
There are several exercises and stretches that can help prevent bursitis, depending on the joint or area of the body that is most susceptible to the condition. Here are some stretches you can do to prevent bursitis in the shoulders, hips, elbows, knees, and ankles:
- Shoulder blade squeeze – Sit or stand with your arms at your sides and your shoulders relaxed. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for a few seconds before releasing.
- Rotator cuff strengthening – Lie on your side with your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle and your forearm resting on the floor. Slowly raise your forearm towards the ceiling, keeping your elbow tucked into your side. Hold for 5 seconds, then lower. Repeat ten times, then switch sides.
- Scapular stabilization exercises – Lie on your stomach with your arms at your sides. Raise your arms off the ground, keeping them straight, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for 5 seconds, then lower. Repeat ten times.
- Wall push-ups – Stand facing a wall with your hands on the wall at shoulder height. Slowly lower your body towards the wall, keeping your elbows close to your sides, then push back up. Repeat ten times.
- Straight leg raises – Lie on your back with one leg straight and the other bent. Lift the straight leg a few inches off the ground and hold for a few seconds before lowering it back down. Repeat for several repetitions on each leg.
- Wall squats – Stand with your back against a wall and your feet about shoulder-width apart. Slowly slide down the wall into a squatting position, keeping your back straight and your knees behind your toes. Hold for a few seconds before standing back up. Repeat for several repetitions.
- Hamstring stretches – Sit on the ground with your legs straight out in front of you. Reach forward and try to touch your toes, keeping your back straight. Hold for a few seconds before releasing. Repeat several times.
- Wrist curls – Hold a lightweight in your hand with your palm facing up. Slowly raise and lower the weight by bending and straightening your wrist. Repeat for several repetitions on each arm.
- Triceps dips – Sit on the edge of a chair or bench with your hands on the edge next to your hips. Lower your body off the edge and bend your elbows, lowering your body toward the ground. Push yourself back up to the starting position. Repeat for several repetitions.
- Forearm stretches – Extend one arm in front of you with your palm facing down. Use your other hand to gently push your fingers down toward the ground, stretching your forearm. Hold for a few seconds before releasing. Repeat several times on each arm.
- Hip rotations – Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands on your hips. Slowly rotate your hips in a circular motion, clockwise and counterclockwise.
- Hip abductor stretch – Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and shift your weight to one leg. Lift the opposite leg out to the side, keeping it straight. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
- Hip flexor stretch – Kneel on one knee with the other foot in front of you. Lean forward, stretching your hip flexor muscles. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
- Clamshells – Lie on your side with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle. Keep your feet together and lift the top knee, keeping your heels touching. Lower and repeat for 10-15 repetitions, then switch to the other side.
- Bridges – Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips up towards the ceiling, squeezing your glutes. Hold for 2-3 seconds and lower. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
- Side-lying leg lift – Lie on your side with your legs straight. Lift the top leg towards the ceiling, keeping it straight. Hold for 2-3 seconds and lower. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions, then switch to the other side.
- Calf raises –Stand with your feet hip-width apart and slowly rise up onto the balls of your feet, then slowly lower back down. Repeat for several sets of 10-15 reps.
- Seated calf raises –Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Slowly raise up onto the balls of your feet, then lower back down. Repeat for several sets of 10-15 reps.
- Achilles tendon stretches – Stand facing a wall with your hands on the wall at shoulder height. Step back with one foot and bend your front knee while keeping your back leg straight. Lean forward into the wall until you feel a stretch in your Achilles tendon. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
- Wrist circles – Gently rotate your wrists in a circular motion, both clockwise and counterclockwise. Do this for 10-15 repetitions.
- Wrist flexor stretch – Hold one arm out in front of you with your palm facing down. Use your other hand to gently pull your fingers back toward your wrist until you feel a stretch in your forearm. Hold for 20-30 seconds, and then switch arms.
- Grip strengthening – Squeeze a softball or putty with your hand to improve grip strength. Do this for 10-15 repetitions on each hand.
- Wrist extensions – Hold a lightweight in your hand and sit with your forearm supported on a table or bench. Slowly raise the weight up towards the ceiling, keeping your forearm still. Lower the weight back down slowly. Do 10-15 repetitions on each hand.
- Forearm curls – Hold a lightweight in your hand and sit with your forearm supported on a table or bench. Slowly curl the weight up towards your shoulder, keeping your elbow still. Lower the weight back down slowly. Do 10-15 repetitions on each hand.
- Ankle circles – Sit with your legs extended and rotate your ankle clockwise and counterclockwise for 15 to 20 reps on each side.
- Toe raises – Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and raise your heels, lifting your body weight onto your toes. Lower your heels back down and repeat for 15 to 20 reps.
- Heel drops – Stand with the balls of your feet on a step or raised platform and slowly lower your heels down until you feel a stretch in your Achilles tendon. Raise your heels back up and repeat for 15 to 20 reps.
- Ankle dorsiflexion – Sit with your legs extended and loop a resistance band around the ball of your foot. Slowly pull your foot towards you, keeping your leg straight until you feel a stretch in your calf. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat for ten reps on each side.
- Ankle plantarflexion – Sit with your legs extended and loop a resistance band around the ball of your foot. Point your toes away from you, pulling against the band, until you feel a stretch in the front of your ankle. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat for ten reps on each side.