Recognising Bursitis in different body parts

Recognising Bursitis in different body parts

Since bursitis causes pain and tenderness around the affected body part (a bone or tendon) we have included a list of the most affected body parts in order to help you to identify the symptoms and signs of bursitis. Generally speaking these body parts will ache, swell and often will make movement difficult. The most commonly affected joints are the shoulder, elbow, knee, and foot.


Bursitis in the shoulder occurs when the subdeltoid bursa (also known as subacromial bursa) separates the supraspinatus tendon from the overlying bone and deltoid muscle. As a consequence, this bursa gets inflamed causing injury to surrounding structures, most commonly the rotator cuff. This condition limits the range of motion of the shoulder, which also causes a condition called „impingement syndrome“. As a consequence, the shoulder aches in the side or in its front part, which causes that overhead lifting or reaching activities result difficult to do. Further, the shoulder aches more generally at night, at it will decrease range of active motion and become tender at specific points.


The most common form of bursitis of the tip of the elbow is also known as olecranon bursitis. This condition can easily get infected and occurs when the bursa is frequently exposed to direct bumpings (trauma) or repeated motions from bending and extending the elbow. These kinds of motion occur while stressing the elbow when exercising, making sports or painting.


In the following section we will present to types of bursitis affecting the knee. One is the „prepatellar bursitis“ , which affects the front part of the kneecap. This kind of bursitis is also known as carpet-layer's knee, housemaid's knee, and clergyman's knee. This bursitis takes place when chronic trauma or an acute blow to the knee occur. In fact this body part can even swell between seven to ten days after a single blow in that area, which is generally caused if the person falls down.

A further kind of bursitis is the „pes anserine bursitis“. This bursitis involves the fan shaped bursa, which lies among three of the major tendons at the inner knee. People specially with arthritis and overweight middle aged women with osteoarthritis are at higher risk of developing it. The pain is typically given when the knee is bent and it increases during the night. A practical advise to relieve this pain can be to sleep with a pillow between the tights. In case of climbing stairs and at extremes of bending and extending the knee, pain can take place and it can radiate to the inner thigh and mid-calf. Pes anserine bursitis also occurs due to an overuse or traumatic injury among athletes, particularly long-distance runners.


Ankle bursitis is also called retrocalcaneal bursitis and it happens when the bursa under the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel gets inflamed. This is commonly caused by Achilles tendonitis, prolonged walking or by local trauma caused by using high heels or shoes that cause pain. Specially young athletes such as ice skaters and people starting new exercise routines such as walking or jumping are at higher risk of developing ankle bursitis because they tend to overuse this part of the body leading to injuries. The pain is usually located on the back of the heel and increases with passive extension or resisted flexion.


Buttocks bursitis or „ischiogluteal bursitis“ (also known as „weaver's botton“) takes place when the ischial bursa gets inflamed. This bursa lies between the bottom of the pelvic bone and one side of the buttocks muscle (also called the overlying gluteus maximus). The bursa gets inflamed by prolonged sitting on a hard surface or from bicycling. The pubic bone becomes tender, it may get worse by bending and extending the leg and it may be extended down the back of the thigh. The pain appears when sitting or walking. The pain gets sharp if direct pressure over the area is applied, while lying down and the hip is passively bent and when standing on tiptoe on the affected side.


The iliopsoas bursa is the largest in the body and is located in front of, and deep to, the hip joint. Bursitis in this area is commonly associated with hip problems such as arthritis or injury. Specially runners present a higher risk of developing bursitis. The pain is located down the front and middle areas of the thigh to the knee and it increases when the hip is extended and rotated. This extension of the hip causes pain while walking normally (taking shorter steps may help reducing the pain). Besides, the groin area may be tender, sometimes even a mass may be felt (as if a hernia was present) and numbness or tingling can appear if adjacent nerves are compressed by the inflamed bursa.


The thigh bursitis or „trochanteric bursitis „occurs when the trochanteric bursa, at the outer thigh over the hip, becomes inflamed. Trochanteric bursitis is very common and ia present most frequently in overweight, middle-aged women. The pain is located along the side of the hip and may be extended into the buttocks or to the side of the knee. If local pressure, stretching or activity involving the thigh is done the pain gets worse. Further, lying or sleeping on the side of the pain area increases makes the pain worse.