Haberfield Physiotherapy



My scan says I have bursitis, my Doctor says I have bursitis, what is Bursitis?

Bursitis is a common condition whereby a sac of fluid known as a bursa, which is usually under a tendon near a joint, gets inflamed and swollen. The bursa serves to reduce friction between muscles, tendons and bones. It can be found in numerous joints in your body, including your shoulders, elbows, hips and knees.

How does bursitis happen?

Bursitis can be both acute and chronic, meaning it can come on suddenly and settle or last for a long time. Acute bursitis often happens from traumatic incidents, overload of the area, micro-crystalline disease, or bacterial infection from a nearby open-skin wound. Chronic bursitis can result from overuse and inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, it can be aggravated by increased activities involving the joint and tendons or trauma over the bursa.

What are the symptoms of bursitis?

Symptoms of bursitis can include:
  • Pain and discomfort over the affected area
  • Reduced movement range of the joint
  • Swelling +/- increased heat of the bursa over the joint
  • Weakness of the muscle and tendon associated with the bursa
An infected bursa from a nearby cut can also cause redness, increased temperature of the skin and even a fever. If you have any symptoms of an infected bursa, you should go to your doctor as soon as possible.

How is bursitis diagnosed?

Your clinical history/presentation is vital in diagnosing the condition and differentiating is from similar conditions that may affect the area. On palpation the bursa will usually feel enlarged and tender when pressure is applied. Several tests to load the area will also help with diagnosing bursitis.

Imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or an MRI will also can confirm an inflamed and enlarged bursa. These imaging tests need to be correlated with assessment findings.


In most cases, bursitis responds very well to conservative treatment and rarely needs surgical intervention. Initially, relative rest while avoiding actions that creates compression over the bursa will be recommended. Cold packs in the acute phase may be of benefit to control the inflammation, pain and swelling. Your GP may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication or an ultrasound-guided steroid injection to also settle the inflammation.

Your Physiotherapist will provide a phased treatment plan to return you back into your normal activities and sports. Interventions such shockwave, dry needling, taping and specific exercises to facilitate and accelerate the recovery process can be prescribed, depending on your symptoms and stage of healing. Sometimes, the cause of the pain for this condition can be due to the weakness or tightness of underlying muscles. In such a case, corrective exercises are the best way to strengthen and stretch the muscle to address the root of the problem.

Other interventions may depend on external factors that lead to the inflammation. Inadequate shoes, a poor running/walking pattern, or an abrupt increase in strenuous exercises are some of the possible causes and will require modification.

If you require a Physio assessment for an injury, call us on 9136 2376 or book online at www.physiohaberfield.com.au

Chris Ruan, Physiotherapist