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What is bursitis?

Inflammation of the bursa is known as bursitis. A bursa is a small sac containing fluid that lies between tendons and bones. A bursa allows a tendon to move smoothly over a bone by acting as an anti-friction device and shielding tendons from rubbing against bones. Bursae are found in the knee, elbow, shoulder and wrist. If the tendons become thickened and bumpy from excessive use, the bursa is subjected to increased friction and may become inflamed.


Where are the symptoms?

The main symptom of bursitis is pain. In some cases, especially for shoulder bursitis, people may experience some restriction of movement and stiffness.


How is bursitis recognized?

The diagnosis of bursitis is made by physical examination. To confirm the diagnosis, medical tests such as x-rays may be necessary.


How is bursitis treated?

The treatment of bursitis includes anti-inflammatory medication. It is also important to avoid any work activities suspected of causing bursitis. Most patients respond to treatment and they usually go back to work without any restriction.


What occupations are at risk?

Carpet and floor layers, painters and tile setters that require kneeling are at risk for bursitis to the knees. Working with the arms above shoulder level can give rise to shoulder bursitis.


How can we prevent bursitis?

The prevention of bursitis should focus on the avoidance of kneeling that causes friction and mechanical trauma on the knees. If kneeling is necessary, knee pads and sitting/kneeling support should be used.

Working for prolonged periods with arms above shoulder level causes friction on the bursa of the shoulder. To avoid bursitis in the shoulder, it is necessary to raise the worker by using a platform or to lower the work object.

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Document last updated on August 5, 2008

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