Swelling and inflammation near a joint may be a sign of bursitis, a condition that involves buildup of liquid and inflammation in a bursa sac that cushions a joint. This condition has earned some interesting names over the years: housemaid?s knee, student?s elbow, and tailor?s bottom, to name a few. Simply put, bursitis is the inflammation of a bursa and buildup of fluid in the bursa sac. A bursa is a thin, slippery sac found around a joint that serves to reduce friction between bone and surrounding soft tissue, such as skin, muscles, ligaments and tendons. A bursa sac is made up of a synovial membrane, or synovium, that produces and contains synovial fluid. Excessive friction, a trauma, or other condition can irritate the synovium and cause it to become inflamed. The inflamed synovium will thicken and produce excess synovial fluid, and can cause symptoms such as localized swelling, skin redness and warmth, tenderness and pain. Of the approximately 160 bursae in the body, only a handful of them usually cause bursitis. These usual suspects are found in the knee, shoulder, elbow, and hip. Less frequently, bursitis may also occur in the heel, wrist, buttocks and big toe.
High impact activity, such as running. Trauma to the heel such as jumping from a height. Increase in training levels. Lack of shock absorbency in the trainers worn. Worn running shoes. Poor biomechanics. Loss of the fat pad under the heel. Increase in weight.
Symptoms of bursitis include pain in the heel, especially with walking, running, or when the area is touched. The skin over the back of the heel may be red and warm, and the pain may be worse with attempted toe rise (standing on tippy-toes).
When a patient has pain in a joint, a careful physical examination is needed to determine what type of movement is affected and if there is any swelling present. Bursitis will not show up on x-rays, although sometimes there are also calcium deposits in the joint that can be seen. Inserting a thin needle into the affected bursa and removing (aspirating) some of the synovial fluid for examination can confirm the diagnosis. In most cases, the fluid will not be clear. It can be tested for the presence of microorganisms, which would indicate an infection, and crystals, which could indicate gout. In instances where the diagnosis is difficult, a local anesthetic (a drug that numbs the area) is injected into the painful spot. If the discomfort stops temporarily, then bursitis is probably the correct diagnosis.
Non Surgical Treatment
Cold compresses can help reduce the initial swelling and pain in acute (short-term but severe) soft tissue conditions. Cold therapy is usually most effective during the first 48 hours after swelling begins. Guidelines for cold therapy include. Use a cold gel pack, a bag filled with ice cubes, or even a bag of frozen vegetables. Wrap the pack in a towel if the cold temperature is too painful. Place the cold pack over the area for 20 minutes, three to four times a day. Rub an ice cube over smaller painful areas for a short time. After 48 hours, or for chronic (long-term) pain, dry or moist heat may be more helpful than cold compresses. Follow these guidelines. Use a hot pack, a heating pad, or a damp towel heated in the microwave (make sure it's not too hot or it may burn your skin). Place a hot pack over the painful area for 15-20 minutes, three to four times a day. Never use analgesic creams or rubs with heat packs because the combination could severely burn your skin. Take a warm shower or bath.
Surgery to remove the damaged bursa may be performed in extreme cases. If the bursitis is caused by an infection, then additional treatment is needed. Septic bursitis is caused by the presence of a pus-forming organism, usually staphylococcus aureus. This is confirmed by examining a sample of the fluid in the bursa and requires treatment with antibiotics taken by mouth, injected into a muscle or into a vein (intravenously). The bursa will also need to be drained by needle two or three times over the first week of treatment. When a patient has such a serious infection, there may be underlying causes. There could be undiscovered diabetes, or an inefficient immune system caused by human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV).