Elbow bursitis (Olecranon bursitis) - Fact Sheet

What is it elbow bursitis (olecranon bursitis) ?

Elbow bursitis also known as Olecranon bursitis is a condition in which the bursa near the bony tip of the elbow becomes swollen and inflamed. A bursa is a tiny fluid-filled sac that cushions and lubricates the joints. In a healthy individual, the olecranon bursa has a flat surface. If it were to become irritated or inflamed, increasing fluid collection in the bursa would lead to the development of bursitis.

AC joint injury

What causes Elbow bursitis (Olecranon bursitis)?

The most common cause of olecranon bursitis is trauma or injury to the elbow. This can be a direct blow or fall onto the elbow, which can cause inflammation and swelling of the bursa. Repetitive pressure or friction on the elbow, such as from activities that require repeated bending of the elbow, can also lead to the development of olecranon bursitis. However, other causes of olecranon bursitis include infection, underlying medical conditions, such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis, and certain medications or medical procedures. It’s important to seek medical attention if you experience symptoms of olecranon bursitis, as prompt treatment can help to relieve symptoms and prevent complications.

Signs and Symptoms of Elbow bursitis (Olecranon bursitis)

  • Swelling – the affected area, located at the tip of the elbow, becomes visibly swollen and enlarged.
  • Pain – may be present in the elbow joint, particularly with movement or pressure on the affected area.
  • Limited range of motion – inflammation and discomfort can limit the ability to fully extend or bend the elbow.
  • Redness and warmth -the skin above the bursa may be red and warm to the touch.
  • Fever and chills – these symptoms may develop if the bursitis is caused by an infection.

In some cases, the swelling and inflammation may be accompanied by the accumulation of fluid within the bursa, which can cause a visible lump or cyst to form at the tip of the elbow. If left untreated, olecranon bursitis can cause persistent discomfort and stiffness in the affected joint. It’s important to seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms, as prompt treatment can help to relieve symptoms and prevent complications.



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Treatment of Elbow bursitis (Olecranon bursitis)?

Range of Motion Exercises – Range of motion exercises can help to improve joint mobility and prevent stiffness. Your physiotherapist can design a customized exercise program that includes stretching and strengthening exercises to improve your elbow function.

Manual Therapy – Manual therapy techniques, such as massage and joint mobilization, can be used to reduce pain and stiffness in the elbow joint. Your physiotherapist can use these techniques to help you recover more quickly from olecranon bursitis.

Ice or Heat Therapy – can be used to reduce pain and inflammation in the bursa. Applying ice or heat to the affected area can help to soothe the pain and promote healing.

Electrical Stimulation – can be used to reduce pain and promote healing in the affected area. Your physiotherapist can use electrical stimulation to stimulate the muscles and nerves in the elbow joint, which can help to improve your range of motion and reduce pain.

It’s important to note that physiotherapy treatment for olecranon bursitis should be tailored to the individual needs of the patient. Your physiotherapist will assess your condition and design a treatment program that is right for you.

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