The human body contains many bursa, or fluid-containing sacs, which purpose is to reduce friction throughout joint areas where two tissues rub against each other, such as the elbow or knee. These allow body movements to be smooth and effortless but when an injury or condition causes fluid build-up in the bursa, a person’s ability to move can be afflicted.
Elbow bursitis, also medically known as olecranon bursitis, is a condition where fluid gathers in the olecranon bursa, the sac found behind the elbow. Elbow bursitis is known as the most common type of bursitis. The slippery sac-like tissue of the bursa normally functions by allowing the joints to move with ease around bones but, when the elbow bursa becomes inflamed and begins to fill with fluid, the swelling on the posterior side of the elbow can become significantly noticeable.
Symptoms and Signs of Elbow Bursitis
The common signs and symptoms of elbow bursitis are inflammation and swelling together with pain around the back of the elbow. The olecranon bursa can normally measure up to 6 cm in length but can swell into a size larger than a golf ball. A swollen bursa in the elbow can limit mobility and affect the range of motion of the elbow.
Occasionally, individuals diagnosed with elbow bursitis may also obtain an infection within the bursa, called infected elbow bursitis. Redness behind the elbow, breaks in the skin around the swollen area, and fevers with chills and sweats can be signs of an elbow bursitis infection and treatments should be followed as soon as possible.
Elbow bursitis may result by trauma from an accident, such as falling onto the back of the elbow, or may even develop without a specified reason. Often times, lifestyle changes can be applied to avoid further progression of an elbow bursitis. People who rest their elbows against hard surfaces can irritate the bursa further and provoke the condition to worsen. Simple steps such as ice therapy to reduce the inflammation surrounding the elbow or getting plenty of rest are common treatments used to alleviate the signs and symptoms of elbow bursitis.
Dr. Alex Jimenez