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Bursitis

What is Bursitis?

Bursitis is the inflammation and swelling of a bursa. A bursa is a fluid-filled sac which forms under the skin, usually over the joints, and acts as a cushion between the tendons and bones, it is basically like a blister, but one that sits deep to the skin. It can occur across the body in the hip, elbow, knees as well as feet, in the feet bursitis is commonly found at the back of the heel, under the heel, and at the side of a bunion. 

What causes it?

Bursitis can often develop due to injury or repetitive movement. Your risk of developing bursitis is increased if you regularly take part in physical activities that involve a lot of repetitive movement, so running can lead to development of a bursa in the ankle or foot. Less commonly, bursitis can develop as a result of an infection or as a complication of certain other pre-existing conditions, such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis.

What will happen if I leave it?

The pain can often improve within a few weeks, but the swelling may take longer to completely disappear. Exactly how long it takes to recover may depend on where the bursitis is and whether it was caused by an infection. If it is an infection it could be Septic bursitis, this can lead to additional symptoms, such as; a high temperature or fever, you may start getting flu-like shivers or an infection of the deeper layers of the skin and an accumulation of broken skin over the affected area.

What can help?

To prevent development there are several small things that can have a big impact. If you run or walk regularly, make sure your walking or running shoes fit properly. If you continue having problems with your shoes, a podiatrist will be able to provide a more expert opinion and look at your overall lower limb biomechanics. 

What are the treatment options?

Often just using simple techniques like applying an ice packs can be a good way to reduce inflammation and pain or you can purchase over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can help to relieve the pain, as a plus Ibuprofen can also be used to help reduce the swelling. However, if the swelling caused by bursitis is particularly severe, you may want to consider having the fluid drained out. This procedure is known as aspiration, and it can relieve the pain and improve the range of movement in your joint. During aspiration, a needle is used to draw out the fluid from the bursa. If your symptoms prove persistent and resistant to treatment a specialist can inject corticosteroids directly into the affected area. 

In severe cases, surgery may be recommended to remove the affected bursa, particularly where septic bursitis does not respond to antibiotics. Surgery either involves removing the bursa completely, or making an incision in your skin and draining the fluid out of the bursa.