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Every moving joint in the body contains synovial fluid to lubricate it. This fluid is produced in small sacs (bursae) that surround the joint. In the normal state, the bursa provides a slippery surface that has almost no friction. A problem arises when a bursa becomes inflamed. The bursa loses its gliding capabilities, and becomes more and more irritated when it is moved. Common names for different types of occupational bursitis include miners beat knee, beat elbow and housemaids knee.
This condition may be caused by trauma, repetitive movement, prolonged pressure infection and arthritis. The most common sites are the point of the elbow (olecranon bursitis or tennis elbow), over the knee cap (housemaid's knee, miners beat knee or prepatellar bursitis), shoulder, hip (trochanteric bursitis) and the buttocks.
The symptoms of occupational bursitis include swelling of a joint or joint surrounds, that may or may not be painful and the condition is almost always diagnosed on physical examination. Findings include tenderness directly over the bursa and pain with movement of the muscles and tendons that cross the bursa.
In simple cases, the first step for treatment is to keep pressure off of the affected area, and try to limit your activity of that joint. Movement and pressure of the inflamed area will only cause exacerbation and prolongation of symptoms. Applying ice to the affected area will help to control the inflammation and decrease swelling. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) can help decrease pain and swelling.
Proper strengthening exercises and physiotherapy can help you avoid bursitis by using your muscles in a safe, more efficient manner. However, physical therapy exercises should not be undertaken until the inflammation has subsided.
Learning to avoid activities that may cause a flare-up can also be important. If your work involves an activity such as prolonged kneeling, use protective cushions. Alternate repetitive tasks with breaks to relieve pressure. Don't perform one activity continuously for hours at a time.
The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here