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Bursitis Causes & Treatment

You have small cushion-like structures called bursae or ‘a bursa’ (singular) all around your body – over 150 of them! Bursae provide a cushioning and smooth gliding surface between two structures in the body, like our tendons and bones. 

Picture the tendons and muscles that constantly move when you bend and straighten your knee. If they were to regularly rub against one another, they’d quickly become sore – and make activities like running or even walking long distances almost impossible without severe pain. Thankfully, the bursae that sit between the structure and instead cushion and lubricate them, supporting their healthy and pain-free function.

Unfortunately, like any structure in the body, the bursae themselves can become damaged, swollen and painful. This is known as bursitis

 

What Causes Bursitis & Who Is At Risk?

The most common cause of bursitis that we see here at My FootDr is from overuse – meaning that repetitive activity, strain and heavy loads on the bursa exceed what it can safely handle, and it becomes injured. 

Other causes of bursitis can include medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, gout and thyroid problems – to name a few. If you have an infection, often associated with a weak immune system, it may also result in bursitis. Direct trauma, like getting hit in the knee with a soccer ball during a game, can also damage the bursa (alongside other structures most likely!).

 

Signs & Symptoms Of Bursitis

If you’re experiencing some unexplained pain and swelling that is localised to an area, it could be bursitis. As muscles and tendons glide over bursae with movement, moving the affected region may likely elicit some pain. You may also notice some stiffness in the area, or a tight feeling. 

Common areas that we see and treat bursitis include:

  • Back of the heel – this is known as retrocalcaneal bursitis
  • Big toe joint – known as first metatarsophalangeal joint bursitis
  • Front of the knee
  • Back of the knee – known as pes anserine bursitis
  • Side of the hip – Know as trochanteric bursitis

 

Treating & Preventing Bursitis

As the symptoms of bursitis can very closely resemble the symptoms of tendonitis (damage to a tendon, or muscle), the first step to treating bursitis is ensuring that it is the bursa that is damaged, and no other structures are injured alongside it. When it comes to treating bursitis, our goals are to:

  • Reduce your pain and swelling
  • Improve your ability to walk comfortably by offloading the bursa
  • Improve your gait 
  • Address the causes and contributing factors to bursitis to help prevent this problem from recurring in the future

 

We can achieve these goals safely and effectively using treatments like custom foot orthotics, getting you in supportive footwear that doesn’t contribute to the overloading of the bursa, in-shoe padding to temporarily off-load the bursa while keeping you walking, treating any resulting pains like if any callus has built up around the swollen bursa and is now contributing to your pain, and more.