What are the Most Common Bursitis Symptoms?

Susan Grindstaff

Two of the most common bursitis symptoms are redness and swelling. In most cases, the condition is painful, especially when movement is attempted. In addition, the joint area may lose flexibility, becoming tight and stiff. Sometimes, in rare cases, the joint could become completely immobile.

Sports-related injuries may lead to bursitis.
Sports-related injuries may lead to bursitis.

Bursitis is caused by the rupture of tiny sacks that surround the joint. These liquid-filled sacks are called bursae, and their purpose is to cushion the joints and keep the joint from direct impact with the socket. When working properly, the bursae are what allow the joints to move freely, without bone rubbing against bone. When rupturing or leaking occur, that is typically when bursitis symptoms first appear.

Pain and swelling near the hip joint may be a sign of bursitis.
Pain and swelling near the hip joint may be a sign of bursitis.

Redness of the skin above the affected joint is caused by inflammation under the skin. When the tissue surrounding the joint becomes inflamed, the inflammation generally spreads and causes the skin to react. Redness is sometimes the last symptom to appear, well after the joint begins to become painful. Swelling is also considered a direct reaction to inflammation.

Stiffness and joint pain are also a direct result of inflammation. When the tissue that surrounds the joint becomes inflamed, this tissue typically begins to swell. The swelling often makes movement difficult and painful. The severity of the bursitis symptoms is typically determined by how many of the bursae are damaged and to what degree.

Bursitis is often caused by a joint injury. Sometimes the damage is from an obvious injury, such as stumbling and using a knee to help block a complete fall. Allowing the knee to take the total impact frequently is more than sufficient to burst bursae around the knee joint. In other instances, the injury that led to bursitis symptoms may go completely undetected, and may be the result of nothing more than moving a basket of laundry.

Overuse of specific joints is considered the most common cause of bursitis. The overuse is often directly related to employment or repeated daily activities. Two of the most commonly affected joints are the knee and shoulder. Hip joints are also commonly plagued by bursitis. As the effects of overuse can take many years to occur, bursitis symptoms are more frequently seen in elderly patients.

In rare cases, bursitis symptoms may be the result of infections, such as rheumatic fever. A condition called gout can also lead to bursitis. Gout is usually caused by acid crystals that form around joints. Continued friction from the crystals rubbing against joint tissue can eventually cause the bursae to burst.

The knee is commonly affected by bursitis.
The knee is commonly affected by bursitis.

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