Bursitis is an inflammation of the bursae, which are small fluid-filled sacs that help protect the bones, muscles and tendons near your joints. The most common locations to get bursitis include the shoulders, elbows and hips, but you can also have bursitis at the base of the big toe and on the heel (called infracalcaneal bursitis).
Symptoms of bursitis typically include an achy or stiff joint, swelling and redness near the joint, and pain when the area is moved or if you press on it.
Sometimes bursitis causes immobility, sharp pain, excessive swelling and redness, rash and fever. If you experience any of these symptoms, see your doctor right away.
Infracalcaneal bursitis is often confused with plantar fasciitis, which is an inflammation of the plantar fascia. The main difference is that infracalcaneal bursitis is usually worse at the end of the day, whereas plantar fasciitis tends to be worse in the morning, upon waking.
More often than not, bursitis is caused by repetitive motion or constant irritation of a joint. Examples of this include leaning on your elbows for long periods of time and kneeling for long periods of time. In the case of bursitis of the heel, the most common cause is wearing improperly fitted shoes in addition to long periods of weight-bearing activity on hard surfaces like concrete and asphalt.
Your risk of developing bursitis increases with age as well as with professions or hobbies that require repetitive motion and/or pressure on certain joints and bursae.
Treatment of bursitis usually involves getting plenty of rest so your body can naturally heal as well as using ice and pain relievers to help with discomfort and inflammation. Sometimes physical therapy is recommended to help strengthen the muscles, as are assistive devices like walking canes. In all cases, it is recommended that you try to reduce the pressure put on the affected area.
If your bursitis is caused by infection, you may be prescribed antibiotics.
In rare cases, an inflamed bursa may need to be drained. However, surgery for bursitis is almost never necessary.
The most common ways to avoid developing bursitis include:
- Limiting joint pressure and repetitive motions
- Wearing knee or elbow pads if your job or hobby requires a lot of kneeling
- Wearing properly fitted shoes appropriate for the activity you're engaging in
- Taking frequent breaks to help reduce repetitive pressure on any one body part
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising to help strengthen the muscles that protect your joints
- Stretching before and after physical activity
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