Elbow Bursitis

Elbow bursitis occurs in the olecranon bursa, a fluid-filled sac located at the bony tip of the elbow. This lubricating fluid allows the soft tissues to move freely but when the olecranon bursa becomes irritated or inflamed, more fluid will accumulate, causing bursitis to develop in return. 

A swollen elbow

Some common symptoms of elbow bursitis include:

  • Swelling – usually the first symptom to show up
  • Pain – bursa begins to stretch as it gets swollen, causing pain
  • Redness and feels warm to the touch – the skin becomes red and warm, indicating an inflammation or infection



Elbow bursitis occurs due to a number of reasons:


Trauma to the tip of the elbow can cause the bursa to produce excess liquid and swell. 


Prolonged pressure
Putting pressure on the tip of the elbow on hard surfaces for long periods of time may cause the bursa to swell. Certain occupations such as plumbers and technicians who have to lean on their elbows are at higher risk. 


Bacteria may get inside an injury at the tip of the elbow, causing the bursa sac to get infected. The bursa sac can get infected occasionally even without obvious injury to the skin. 


Medical conditions
Certain medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout are associated with elbow bursitis. 


Your orthopaedic specialist usually just needs to do a physical examination to check your arm and elbow to make the diagnosis. However, you may sometimes be required to undergo an X-ray, MRI scan or blood tests to rule out other conditions. 


Non-surgical treatments such as taking anti-inflammatory medication, using elbow pads and making activity changes are usually recommended. Removing fluid from the bursa using a needle can be done, but the recurrence rate is relatively high. If conservative treatments prove to be ineffective or there is infection, your orthopaedic specialist may recommend surgery that involves removing the entire bursa. 


Every case is different; hence it is best to consult an orthopaedic specialist for an accurate diagnosis so that you can obtain the best treatment option that is most suitable for you. Reach out to us today if you suspect you are suffering from elbow bursitis and let us help you enjoy a better quality of life.