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How to Determine if Your Arm Pain is Elbow Bursitis

Home News & Videos Elbow Conditions How to Determine if Your Arm Pain is Elbow Bursitis


The elbow is considered one of the most complex joints in the body, as they consist of bone, ligaments, cartilage, and fluid. Despite this complexity, the elbow is responsible for much of our upper body mobility, as we wouldn’t be able to bend and move our arms without them. Unfortunately, because of the joint’s complexity, the elbow is susceptible to many different kinds of injuries. One of these injuries is called elbow bursitis, a condition that can cause swelling and pain when putting pressure on your elbow. Since there are many kinds of elbow injuries, it may be hard to know when you have this condition. Read on for a complete guide on how to determine if you do in fact have elbow bursitis, and how to treat it.

What is Elbow Bursitis?

Bursae are thin, fluid-filled sacs that act as cushions or buffers between the bones and the skin. They are normally located at our joints in order to counter the everyday friction between them and the bones and muscles. The olecranon bursa is the sac that is located at the pointed tip of the elbow, which is known as the olecranon. You normally do not notice your elbow bursa because it lies flat and conforms to the shape of your elbow bone.

However, when it gets irritated the bursa can grow large and swollen – this is known as bursitis. Bursitis can be caused by many factors, but it usually stems from a bad blow to one of your elbows. Trauma such as a hard object hitting your elbow or falling on top of it could cause the bursa to swell. Additionally, repeated motions that put pressure on your elbows, such as leaning on your elbows, or lifting your bent arms over your head, can irritate the bursa and cause bursitis. This is why elbow bursitis is common in baseball and tennis athletes, as they often have to throw and lift their arms during games. Bursitis can occur and is also common in the knee in careers that involve extensive kneeling and other handiwork, such as plumbing, construction, and gardening.

Diagnosing Bursitis

When you develop bursitis, you may notice that your elbows begin to feel sensitive and warm to the touch. As the bursa begins to inflame, you may feel stiffness and achiness when you move your elbows. These are all common symptoms in many elbow injuries, but what differentiates bursitis from them? Bursitis causes severe swelling at the tip of your elbow that forms a large, circular bump that resembles a golf ball. In addition, pus may begin to secrete from your inflamed elbow – this is the fluid draining from the infected bursa.

Treating Elbow Bursitis

You can reduce your risk of developing bursitis by changing the way you perform everyday tasks. In order to change your lifestyle habits, it’s important to go to physical therapy in order to identify the possible habits that led to your conditions. At physical therapy, you will learn how to gently stretch and strengthen the elbow, as well as learn the proper lifting techniques so that you do not put any unneeded pressure on your elbow during upper body activities.

Physical Therapy for Elbow Bursitis

If you are currently living with the pain and discomfort resulting from elbow bursitis or another elbow injury and want to begin your recovery, look no further than JAG Physical Therapy. Our team of physical therapists are dedicated and experienced in treating your needs, whether that is injury recovery, physical therapy, or athletic training. Do not hesitate to contact us today at one of our over 100 New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania locations to begin your recovery journey!