Anatomy of the Olecranon
The elbow contains a large, curved, pointy bone at the back called the olecranon, which is covered by the olecranon bursa, a small fluid-filled sac that allows smooth movement between the bone and overlying skin.
What is Elbow Bursitis?
Inflammation of the olecranon bursa leads to a condition called olecranon bursitis. This is where the bursa becomes thickened and inflamed and occasionally becomes filled with fluid.
Causes of Elbow Bursitis
The causes of elbow bursitis may include trauma or a hard blow on the elbow, excessive leaning on the elbow, infection by puncture wounds or insect bites, or conditions such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis. People in certain occupations such as plumbing or air conditioning, which involve a lot of crawling on the elbows, are highly prone to this condition.
Symptoms of Elbow Bursitis
Swelling is the first sign of elbow bursitis. As more and more liquid fills into the bursa, the swelling increases and can cause pain. This pain is generally mild but can increase with direct pressure or bending of the elbow. If the bursa gets infected, your skin can become warm and red, and may spread to other parts of the arm or even the bloodstream if not treated immediately.
Diagnosis of Elbow Bursitis
Elbow bursitis can be diagnosed by reviewing your medical history and undergoing a thorough physical exam. Your doctor may also order an X-ray and biopsy of the bursa fluid to test for infection.
Treatment Options for Elbow Bursitis
If bursitis is caused due to an infection, your doctor may recommend the removal of fluid from the bursa with a needle and prescribe antibiotics. Elbow bursitis not caused by infection can be treated by the following:
- Elbow pad to cushion your elbow
- Avoiding activities that place direct pressure on the swollen elbows
- Taking anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling
- Injection of corticosteroid medication directly into the bursa to relieve pain and swelling
When these methods do not help, the bursa is surgically removed.
Prevention of Elbow Bursitis
Protection of your elbow from excessive friction or wearing elbow pads when you need to lean on your elbows while working may prevent bursitis.