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What Causes Bursitis?

Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that cushion your joints. They reduce friction between your bones, muscles, and tendons as you move.

But sometimes, a bursa can develop inflammation. Whether it’s from an acute injury or it’s the side effect of a chronic condition like gout or rheumatoid arthritis, an inflamed bursa can make a joint stiff and painful.

At Manhattan Orthopedics, Edmond Cleeman, MD, specializes in diagnosing and treating bursitis, which is inflamed bursae. The most common symptoms of bursitis include joint pain, stiffness, and swelling — but what’s causing your pain can be difficult to identify on your own.

Learn more about what causes bursitis and trust your care to Dr. Cleeman and our team at Manhattan Orthopedics.

Activity or injury triggers bursitis

Bursitis can affect any bursa sac within your body, but it’s most common in major joints. Most of the time, repetitive activity or stress on a particular joint is the main cause of bursitis. It can also be triggered by an injury to a joint.

The activity that causes bursitis often varies depending on the affected joint.


Shoulder bursitis is common, because the shoulder is one of the most heavily used joints in the body. Throwing a ball, lifting objects above your head, and carrying items can all cause inflammation in bursa sacs that leads to bursitis pain.


Elbow bursitis, also called olecranon bursitis, can flare up when you use your elbows for repetitive activities. Like shoulder bursitis, elbow bursitis often develops from repeatedly lifting objects above your head. Resting your elbows on hard surfaces or suffering a blow to the back of your elbow can also cause bursitis. 


Trochanteric bursitis is the technical term for hip bursitis. As another large joint, hips are particularly susceptible to bursitis. Lying on your side while you sleep may increase your risk of hip bursitis. Other top causes include injury and improper posture when standing or sitting.


Knee bursitis, also called prepatellar bursitis, can develop when your kneecap sustains damage. Playing sports, spending long periods of time on your knees, or bending your knees repeatedly can cause bursitis.


Also called retrocalcaneal bursitis, bursitis in the heel can quickly make standing and walking very painful. Running or jumping a lot are top causes of heel bursitis, and failing to warm up before beginning strenuous exercise may also cause inflammation.

Bursitis may also be caused by a bacterial infection and can affect any joint. Also called septic bursitis, infectious bursitis spreads when bacteria enter the bursa through a wound. Blood or joint infections can develop into bursitis.

Risk factors for bursitis

Bursitis can develop from many different causes, but in general, it’s caused by inflammation and repetitive motion. Anyone can get bursitis in a joint, but certain factors may put you at increased risk.

Common risk factors for bursitis include:

When you come to Manhattan Orthopedics for joint care, Dr. Cleeman examines your joint and asks you to describe your symptoms. He may order imaging tests or blood work to confirm your diagnosis. He offers a range of nonsurgical and surgical treatment options for bursitis, with the goal of managing your pain and getting you back to enjoying your favorite activities again.

Find treatment that works for bursitis at Manhattan Orthopedics. Request an appointment online or call one of our offices in Midtown West Manhattan and Astoria in New York City. Both in-office and telemedicine appointments are available to accommodate you.

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