What are Elbow Bursitis and Olecranon Bursitis?

May 31, 2024

Living with Elbow Bursitis

Imagine waking up to a swollen elbow, tender and warm to the touch. For many who suffer from elbow bursitis, this is the daily reality. Simple tasks like brushing your teeth or typing at your computer become uncomfortable chores. The pain can be a constant reminder that something isn't right. Living with elbow bursitis means adjusting your activities to manage the discomfort and prevent the condition from worsening. But what exactly is elbow bursitis, and how can it be treated?

What is Elbow Bursitis?

Orthopaedic elbow specialist examines patient's olecranon bursitis

Elbow bursitis, also known as olecranon bursitis, is an inflammation of the bursa sac in the elbow. The bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between bones and soft tissues. When the bursa becomes inflamed, it can fill with excess fluid, causing swelling and pain. Elbow bursitis and olecranon bursitis refer to the same condition, where the bursa sac located at the tip of the elbow (olecranon) becomes inflamed. This inflammation can cause swelling, pain, and limited range of motion in the elbow joint. The terms are often used interchangeably, but "olecranon bursitis" specifically highlights the affected bursa at the elbow's tip.

Types of Elbow Bursitis

Elbow bursitis comes in different forms, each with its own cause and characteristics. Understanding the type of bursitis you have is crucial for determining the most effective treatment. Some forms of elbow bursitis develop suddenly due to an injury, while others build up over time from repetitive activities. Additionally, infections can lead to a more severe and urgent form of bursitis. Let's take a closer look at the different types of elbow bursitis and what distinguishes them from one another:

  • Acute Elbow Bursitis: This type typically results from a sudden injury, such as a blow to the elbow. The bursa quickly fills with fluid, causing immediate swelling and pain.
  • Chronic Elbow Bursitis: This type develops gradually over time, often caused by repetitive motion or prolonged pressure on the elbow. It can lead to persistent swelling that may or may not be painful.
  • Septic Elbow Bursitis: This occurs when the bursa becomes infected. It can cause severe pain, redness, and warmth around the elbow and may accompany a fever. Immediate medical attention is required.

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Symptoms of Elbow Bursitis

Symptoms of olecranon bursitis (elbow bursitis) can vary, and not all of them cause pain:

Painful Symptoms:

  • Swelling and tenderness: The elbow becomes swollen and tender to the touch. This swelling can make it difficult to rest the elbow on surfaces or perform tasks that involve leaning on the elbow.
  • Pain with movement: Bending or extending the elbow can be painful. This discomfort can interfere with your daily activities such as lifting objects, typing, or even reaching for items.
  • Warmth and redness: The skin over the elbow may feel warm and appear red. These symptoms can indicate inflammation or possible infection and should be monitored closely, especially if accompanied by severe pain or fever.

Non-Painful Symptoms:

  • Swelling without pain: Some individuals may notice a swollen elbow with no accompanying pain. The elbow may appear enlarged, but the lack of pain can sometimes delay seeking treatment.
  • Fluid on elbow no pain: A visible fluid buildup might not cause discomfort but can limit the elbow's range of motion and can make it challenging for you to fully extend or flex your elbow, impacting daily tasks.
Man holds his elbow with his opposing hand because he has pain from elbow bursitis.

Treating Elbow Bursitis

Treating elbow bursitis depends on the type and severity of the condition but there are several ways you can manage elbow bursitis at home:

Elbow Bursitis Treatment at Home

  • Rest: You should give your elbow a break from activities that strain it. Resting helps to reduce inflammation and allows the bursa to heal naturally. Avoid activities that aggravate the elbow and apply ice packs to reduce swelling. Resting the elbow allows the inflammation to subside, while ice helps to minimize swelling and numb the pain.
  • Ice: Apply ice packs for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day, to reduce swelling. Icing helps to numb the area and decrease inflammation, providing relief from pain.
  • Compression: You can use a compression bandage to help minimize swelling. Compression supports the elbow and prevents fluid from accumulating in the bursa.
  • Elevation: Keep your elbow elevated above your heart level to decrease fluid buildup. Elevation helps to reduce swelling by promoting fluid drainage away from the elbow.
  • Medication: Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can help manage pain and inflammation. These medications reduce swelling and discomfort, making it easier to perform everyday activities.
  • Over-the-counter Medications: Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can help reduce pain and inflammation. These over-the-counter medications are readily available and can provide effective relief from symptoms.

Why Choose an OrthoNJ Doctor for Your Elbow Bursitis Treatment?

OrthoNJ is different from your typical medical provider. Unlike many in the industry, we prioritize patient care over profits. Our six divisions work collaboratively to ensure the best outcomes for our patients. We believe in the "Power to Put Patients First," our doctors and divisional partners strive to uphold this commitment to our patients in every aspect of our medical care.

  • With over 120 fantastic physicians, all board-certified, board-qualified, or fellowship-trained, OrthoNJ offers top-tier expertise across a wide range of specialties.
  • We serve over 250 communities throughout New Jersey, providing treatment and continuing care for various orthopedic needs.
  • With more than 30 statewide offices, our reach extends across the entire state. Whether in North Jersey, South Jersey, or anywhere between, OrthoNJ proudly serves you.

Seeing an Orthpaedic Specialist for Elbow Bursitis Treatment

While there are several ways to manage elbow bursitis at home it is often essential to see care from an orthopaedic elbow specialist. Treatment from your doctor may include:

  • Aspiration: In some cases, a doctor may drain the excess fluid from the bursa to reduce swelling and discomfort. This procedure can provide immediate relief from pressure and pain.
  • Antibiotics: If the bursitis is caused by an infection, antibiotics will be necessary. Treating the infection promptly is crucial to prevent it from spreading and causing more severe issues.
  • Bracing: Your doctor may recommend using a brace for your olecranon bursitis.

The Best Elbow Brace for Bursitis

An elbow brace can support and limit movement, allowing the bursa to heal. The brace also helps prevent further irritation by stabilizing the elbow and reducing strain.

Choosing the best elbow brace for bursitis depends on several factors, including the level of support you need, the type of bursitis you have, and your personal comfort preferences. Here are some top recommendations for elbow braces that are highly regarded for managing bursitis:

  1. McDavid Elbow Support with Strap: This brace provides excellent support with an adjustable strap for customized compression. It helps reduce swelling and pain while allowing for a good range of motion.
  2. Kunto Fitness Elbow Brace Compression Support Sleeve: Made from breathable and comfortable fabric, this sleeve offers moderate compression and support. It's ideal for those who need to wear the brace for extended periods.
  3. Bauerfeind EpiTrain Elbow Support: This brace, known for its high-quality construction and medical-grade compression, alleviates pain and reduces swelling. Its anatomically contoured design ensures a secure and comfortable fit.
  4. Simien Elbow Brace: This versatile brace includes a compression pad that can be positioned to target specific areas of pain. It's adjustable and can be used for various elbow conditions, including bursitis.
  5. Copper Compression Recovery Elbow Sleeve: Infused with copper, this sleeve provides support and promotes faster recovery through its compression technology. It's lightweight and can be worn throughout the day.

When selecting an elbow brace for bursitis, consider the following features:

  • Adjustability: Look for braces with adjustable straps to ensure a snug fit and customized compression.
  • Comfort: Choose a brace made from breathable and comfortable materials to prevent irritation, especially if you need to wear it for long periods.
  • Support Level: Depending on the severity of your bursitis, you may need a brace with varying levels of support. Some braces offer mild compression, while others provide rigid support to limit movement.
  • Ease of Use: Select a brace that is easy to wear and remove, especially if you use it frequently.

Finding the best elbow brace for bursitis can significantly impact your recovery and daily comfort. Each of the recommended braces offers unique benefits tailored to different needs. Consider your specific symptoms, the activities you need support for, and your comfort preferences when choosing. For personalized advice, consult with an orthopaedic elbow specialist to ensure you select the most appropriate brace for your condition.

You don't have to stay in pain. Contact one of our ONJ divisions to schedule an appointment.

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When to See an Orthopaedic Elbow Specialist

You should see an orthopaedic elbow specialist if you experience:

  • Severe pain or inability to move the elbow could indicate a more serious underlying issue requiring professional assessment and treatment.
  • Signs of infection include fever, redness, warmth, or severe swelling. An infected bursa needs prompt medical attention to prevent complications.
  • Persistent symptoms: If home treatments aren't helping after a few days, it's time to consult a specialist. Continued symptoms may require more advanced treatments to achieve relief.

Take Action for Your Elbow Health

Elbow bursitis can significantly impact your daily life, but with the right treatment, you can manage or alleviate the symptoms and get back to your routine. If you suspect you have olecranon bursitis, don't wait. Schedule an appointment with an ONJ elbow specialist today for expert care and personalized treatment. Your elbows deserve the best, so take the first step towards relief and recovery.

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