What is Olecranon Bursitis?
Olecranon bursitis is a condition in which the bursa, the fluid filled sac located at the tip of the elbow between the bones of the elbow and the skin, becomes inflamed. The function of the bursa is to allow the skin to move freely over the bones in the elbow but when this area is inflamed, pain develops and it may be difficult to move the elbow freely.
What causes Olecranon Bursitis?
Anything that results in a build-up of fluid or swelling of the elbow can cause olecranon bursitis. This includes a direct injury to the tip of the elbow, an infection around the elbow in which bacteria may enter the bursa causing it to swell, a growth that narrows the space where the bursa is situated (such as a bone spur), repetitive pressure on the tip of the elbow (i.e., leaning your elbow on a hard table for long periods of time), or certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout.
What are the symptoms of Olecranon Bursitis?
The primary symptom of olecranon bursitis is swelling at the tip of the elbow. As the bursa swells, it stretches the loose skin covering the elbow and narrows the space between the skin and the bone, causing pain. Excessive swelling of the bursa can limit mobility of the joint. If the condition is caused by an infection, there may also be redness in addition to the swelling and the area may feel warm to the touch.
How is Olecranon Bursitis diagnosed?
A medical professional will take a complete medical history and will perform a physical exam. The elbow will be checked for signs of swelling, tenderness, redness, warmth, pain and mobility. If infection is suspected, fluid may be removed from the elbow to test for the presence of bacteria. If an injury to the elbow has occurred or there is suspicion of a bone spur, an x-ray may be taken.
When should I seek care for Olecranon Bursitis?
If you experience swelling or pain in your elbow that does not improve by resting the joint, applying ice or taking over the counter medications, you should seek medical advice. If the swelling is caused by a direct impact to the elbow you should seek immediate medical attention to rule out a fracture. If swelling is accompanied by warmth or redness, you should also seek immediate medical attention to determine if an infection is present. An untreated infection can spread, causing major illness.
What will the treatment for Olecranon Bursitis consist of?
Treatment for olecranon bursitis is aimed at reducing the swelling in the bursa and therefore reducing pain and immobility caused by the swelling. This is typically done by elevating the elbow, applying ice to the affected area, resting the elbow and avoiding activities or positions that irritate the elbow – such as leaning the elbow directly on a table. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications may alleviate pain and swelling. If the bursitis is caused by an infection, fluid may be removed to test for the presence of bacteria and a course of antibiotics given to combat the infection. If conservative methods do not bring about relief, the bursa may be aspirated to remove fluid and corticosteroid injections may be given directly into the bursa to reduce swelling and inflammation. In rare cases, surgery is required to improve the condition. This involves removing the bursa and allowing it to re-grow.
Which muscle groups/joints are commonly affected by Olecranon Bursitis?
Olecranon bursitis affects the elbow joint.
What type of results should I expect from the treatment of Olecranon Bursitis?
Most cases of olecranon bursitis will clear up with conservative treatment methods. If the condition is caused by a medical condition or by a repetitive physical activity that puts repeated pressure on the elbow and the activity is not modified, there is a high chance of recurrence. If surgery is necessary, the outcome is usually successful and the surgery involves few complications and minimal rehabilitation.