Active Seniors

What is a bursa and what is bursitis?

A common diagnosis for pain on the outside of the hip is called bursitis. But what is a bursa and how does it get inflamed? Keep reading for more information!

A bursa is a small fluid filled sac. We have over 150 different bursae around the joints in the body. Most commonly, bursae are positioned either between muscles or between their tendons and the underlying bone. They are designed to reduce the amount of friction and resistance experienced when we move. The fluid inside the bursa is a similar consistency to an egg white.

Bursitis is a condition in which the bursa becomes inflamed. This can be the result of repetitive overload, injury due to impact or even infection. Bursitis can also be associated with other conditions such as arthritis, gout and diabetes. Most commonly, people experience pain, tenderness, swelling and movement restrictions. The most frequently reported areas in the body that people experience bursitis are the hip area and the shoulder area.

While cortisone injections are sometimes used to relieve the symptoms in bursitis, an important part of management should be looking at how you are moving and trying to identify any imbalances that may have led to the development of bursitis – especially where there is no trauma or acute overload that can be identified. Addressing these imbalances can prevent a recurrence of bursitis after symptoms have settled.

A good place to start for many people are isometric exercises. These involve the muscle tensing to hold a position rather than tensing to create movement. The best part about isometric exercises is that you control the intensity and the pain levels. Even a very mild contraction is beneficial and can allow you to create movement and load through the area with minimal discomfort. Start with a 5-10 second hold and repeat this 3-5 times with a short rest period between each effort. You can build up both the time and the intensity as your symptoms settle. Make sure you don’t hold your breath or use other parts of your body to assist the contraction. 

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