Elbow Bursitis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Elbow Pain

Table of Contents


Elbow bursitis is a prevalent ailment that can result in unpleasant sensations and pain within the elbow joint. Frequently misidentified as “Tennis Elbow,” it is crucial to discern between these two conditions due to their unique origins and the distinct approaches to treatment. In this article, we will delve into the world of elbow bursitis, examining its precise causes, symptoms, and suitable treatment methods for the effective management of this affliction.

What Is Elbow Bursitis?

Elbow bursitis is defined by the inflammation of the bursa sac, a small, fluid-filled cushion situated amidst bones, tendons, and muscles within the elbow joint. Although it may present similar symptoms to “Tennis Elbow,” which mainly pertains to lateral epicondylitis, the root causes of these conditions diverge. Elbow bursitis can stem from a range of factors and affects individuals beyond athletes. A comprehensive grasp of the causes, symptoms, and treatment choices is vital for the effective management of this condition.

Causes of Elbow Bursitis

Elbow bursitis can be traced back to various factors, each distinct from the triggers of “Tennis Elbow.” Noteworthy contributors encompass:

Overuse: The repetitive motions of the forearm and wrist, as observed in activities like tennis, golf, or painting, can lead to the emergence of elbow bursitis.

Trauma: Direct impact or injury to the elbow region can incite inflammation in the bursa sac, giving rise to bursitis.

Infection: Though less common, the infiltration of infection within the bursa sac can provoke bursitis and requires immediate medical attention.

Underlying Medical Conditions: Specific pre-existing medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout, elevate the risk of developing elbow bursitis.

Symptoms of Elbow Bursitis

Symptoms of elbow bursitis can vary from mild discomfort to severe pain. Typical signs include:

Pain on the outer part of the elbow: This pain often worsens when gripping or lifting objects.

Swelling: Swelling in the affected area may be visible and tender to the touch.

Limited range of motion: Inflammation in the bursa sac can restrict elbow joint movement, making it challenging to fully extend or flex the arm.

Weakness: Weakened grip strength is a common complaint in individuals with elbow bursitis.

Stiffness: The affected elbow may feel stiff, hindering everyday activities.

Treatment Options

Managing elbow bursitis involves a combination of self-care practices, conservative treatments, and, in some cases, medical intervention. Here are some common treatment options:

Rest: The initial step in treating elbow bursitis is to provide the affected joint with adequate rest. Avoid activities that exacerbate symptoms and allow the inflamed bursa sac time to heal.

Ice and compression: Applying ice and compression can help reduce swelling and alleviate pain.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Over-the-counter NSAIDs, like ibuprofen, can reduce inflammation and pain.

Physical Rehabilitation: A qualified physical therapist can offer exercises and techniques designed to improve range of motion and fortify the muscles that are impacted by the condition.

Steroid injections: In certain cases, healthcare providers may recommend corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation.

Drainage and antibiotics: If bursitis results from an infection, drainage and antibiotics may be necessary to clear the infection.

Lifestyle modifications: Making ergonomic adjustments in regular tasks or wearing a brace can help prevent bursitis from returning.

When conservative treatments fail to provide considerable improvement in severe and persistent cases of bursitis, surgery is considered a last resort.


Elbow bursitis can cause discomfort and impede daily activities. It is crucial to differentiate it from “Tennis Elbow,” as they have distinct causes and treatments. If you experience persistent elbow pain or suspect elbow bursitis, consult a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and a personalized treatment plan. With the right approach, most individuals can recover from elbow bursitis and regain pain-free use of their elbow joint.

Elbow Bursitis FAQ

Prompt alleviation of elbow bursitis symptoms can often be achieved through corticosteroid injections. As a potent anti-inflammatory medication, corticosteroids injected directly into the inflamed olecranon bursa are typically effective in reducing both pain and swelling.
Olecranon bursitis frequently stems from trauma, such as a fall onto the elbow or striking the elbow against a rigid surface. This can happen in various sports, with reported occurrences in football, hockey, basketball, and volleyball players.
The elbow joint contains a fluid-filled sac called the bursa, which serves to cushion tendons, muscles, and ligaments, enabling smooth movement over the bones in the joint. If you experience symptoms indicative of elbow bursitis in Singapore, consulting with an orthopedic doctor can lead to an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
While bursitis commonly manifests as a painless condition, it has the potential to become infected. If infection occurs, noticeable signs include redness, heat, and swelling in the affected elbow. In such instances, prompt action is advisable, as delaying treatment may lead to the spread of infection into the arm, posing a potential danger.
× Chat with us for more information