Elbow bursitis is not uncommon. People who put prolonged pressure on their elbow while doing their job or trauma to the elbow joint are at a risk of suffering from elbow bursitis. Bursitis is a painful condition. Bursa is a small fluid filled sac which acts as a cushion between the bones and soft tissues such as tendons, muscles and skin. Inflammation in bursae is called bursitis. Bursitis usually develops in elbow, shoulder and hip. It can also occur in knee and heel.
Elbow bursa is situated between the loose skin and olecranon process in the elbow.Olecranon bone is a pointy bone that you can feel at the back of your elbow. Elbow bursa is flat when it is normal. But if it gets inflamed and irritated, it becomes enlarged due to accumulation of more fluid. Elbow bursitis can be easily treated with ice application, rest to the elbow and medication. Physical therapy and ultrasound are valuable in the recuperating stage.
What Causes Bursitis In The Elbow?
There are various reasons responsible for development of bursitis. Given below are the common and important ones.
- A direct hit on elbow or trauma to the elbow joint, especially on the pointed bony process can damage the elbow bursa. Once inflamed and irritated, more fluids gets collected and the area becomes swollen.
- Pressure for a prolonged period: leaning on tip of your elbow for a prolonged period of time on the desk, or any hard surface will lead to elbow bursitis. Usually it takes several months to develop. People having certain occupations are more vulnerable to this condition such as plumber and air-condition repairers. Many times they have to crawl on their elbows and knees in tight space.
- Infection: an insect bite, a puncture wound, break in skin due to eczema are few reasons where the bacteria may enter the fluid sac of the bursa and cause infection. Infection results in redness, swelling, pain, and heat. If not treated, the accumulated fluid in the bursa will become pus.
- Many times elbow bursitis is associated with rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
Bursitis In Elbow Symptoms
Swelling is often the first symptom to be noted in elbow bursitis. Many times in the initial stage it is missed because of loose skin in the back of the elbow region. However, as time passes the bursa becomes enlarged due to accumulation of more fluid. You may notice swelling at the back of elbow on the bony process.
Pain is another characteristic symptom of bursitis. Due to accumulation of fluid in the bursa, it gets stretched and painful. Pain increases when you put pressure on the elbow tip or while bending the elbow. This may restrict elbow movement.
If elbow bursa becomes infected, the elbow skin becomes red and warm. There is swelling and pain in the elbow region. If pus is formed in the bursa, systemic symptoms such as fever, headache and body ache are present apart from the local symptoms.
Sometimes, there may be a spontaneous opening in the bursa and pus will drain out.
Home Remedies For Elbow Bursitis
Elbow bursitis in most cases can be treated conservatively. Rest, ice fomentation, compression and elevation are necessary.
- Rest: giving rest to the elbow joint will reduce the swelling and prevent its further worsening. As swelling and pain decrease, slowly begin moving your elbow.
- Ice: ice fomentation is valuable. It reduces pain, swelling and redness present in elbow bursitis.
- Compression: compressing the elbow with elastocrepe bandage will prevent excess accumulation of fluid. However, compression should not be too tight as it may prevent free circulation of blood.
- Elevation of the arm will help to reduce the inflammation. Prop your arm on pillows so that the elbow area remains at the heart level.
- Medication: anti inflammatory and painkillers will alleviate pain and swelling. If infection is suspected, antibiotics can be recommended.
If patient does not respond to the normal conservative treatment, the doctor may suggest removing fluid from the bursa. The procedure is carried out in Operation Theater and a fine needle in introduced inside. Steroid is injected into the bursa. Corticosteroid injection will help to relieve pain and swelling.