A bursa is a fluid filled sac that provides cushioning between the bones and the soft tissues. At the elbow joint the pointy bit of bone that you can feel is the olecranon. In this area lies a bursa known as the olecranon bursa. If this bursa becomes irritated it becomes inflamed and leads to pain at the elbow joint. This is called elbow bursitis and often occurs if the elbow has been hit or if there is constant pressure going through the elbow (e.g. leaning on a desk).
Symptoms of Elbow Bursitis
• Swelling and tenderness over the tip of the elbow – if the swelling is gradual it usually indicates a long-lasting/chronic condition. In traumatic/acute injuries the swelling comes on soon after.
• There may be limitations to movement and bruising if a traumatic injury to the elbow has occurred.
Diagnosis and treatment
If a traumatic injury to the elbow has occurred a thorough examination and x-rays will need to be done to rule out a fracture and other soft tissue damage. In the case of chronic ongoing bursitis your physiotherapist will be able to easily diagnose and treat this condition.
Treatment of bursitis initially involves reducing the inflammatory process and pain. This may involve the use of ice, electrotherapeutic modalities, and gentle soft tissue techniques by your physiotherapist as well as avoidance of aggravating activities. Once the initial inflammation has settled then the focus of treatment will change. In the case of both traumatic injuries and chronic conditions there may be other soft tissues to treat. Added to this your physiotherapist will aim to find long term solutions to prevent reoccurrence of the condition. In some cases an elbow protector may be given to you to wear.