bursitis and tendinitis
Bursitis and tendinitis are both common conditions that involve inflammation of the soft tissue around muscles and bones, most often around the joints of the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, or ankle.
A bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between a bone and other moving parts: muscles, tendons, or skin. Bursae are found throughout the body. Bursitis occurs when a bursa becomes inflamed (redness and increased fluid in the bursa).
A tendon is a flexible band of fibrous tissue that connects muscles to bones. Tendinitis is inflammation of a tendon. Tendons transmit the pull of the muscle to the bone and thereby cause movement. They are found throughout the body, including the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles, and feet. Tendons may be small, like those found in the hand, or large, like the Achilles tendon in the heel.
What causes these conditions?Bursitis is commonly caused by overuse or direct trauma to a joint. Bursitis may occur at the knee or elbow; for example, from kneeling or leaning on the elbows longer than usual on a hard surface. Tendinitis is most often the result of a repetitive injury in the affected area. These conditions occur more often with age. Tendons become less flexible with age, and therefore, more prone to injury.
People such as carpenters, gardeners, musicians, and athletes who perform activities that require repetitive motions or place stress on joints are at higher risk for tendinitis and bursitis.
An infection, arthritis, gout, thyroid disease, and diabetes can also bring about inflammation of a bursa or tendon.
What parts of the body are affected?Tendinitis causes pain and tenderness just outside a joint. Some common names for tendinitis identify with the sport or movement that typically increases risk for tendon inflammation. They include tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, pitcher's shoulder, swimmer's shoulder, and jumper's knee. Some common examples follow.
How are these conditions diagnosed?Diagnosis of tendinitis and bursitis begins with a medical history and physical examination. The patient will describe the pain and circumstances in which pain occurs. The location and onset of pain, whether it varies in severity throughout the day, and the factors that relieve or aggravate the pain are all important diagnostic clues. Therapists and physicians will use manual tests called selective tissue tension tests to determine which tendon is involved, and then will palpate (a form of touching the tendon) specific areas of the tendon to pinpoint the area of inflammation. X-rays do not show tendons or bursae, but may be helpful in ruling out problems in the bone or arthritis. In the case of a torn tendon, X-rays may help show which tendon is affected. In a knee injury, for example, an X-ray will show that the patella is lower than normal in a quadriceps tendon tear and higher than normal in a patellar tendon tear. The doctor may also use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to confirm a partial or total tear. MRIs detect both bone and soft tissues like muscles, tendons and their coverings (sheaths), and bursae.
An anesthetic-injection test is another way to confirm a diagnosis of tendinitis. A small amount of anesthetic (lidocaine hydrochloride) is injected into the affected area. If the pain is temporarily relieved, the diagnosis is confirmed.
To rule out infection, the doctor may remove and test fluid from the inflamed area.
What kind of health care professional treats these conditions?A primary care physician or a physical therapist can treat the common causes of tendinitis and bursitis. Complicated cases or those resistant to conservative therapies may require referral to a specialist, such as an orthopaedist or rheumatologist.
How are bursitis and tendinitis treated?Treatment focuses on healing the injured bursa or tendon. The first step in treating both of these conditions is to reduce pain and inflammation with rest, compression, elevation, and anti-inflammatory medicines such as aspirin, naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve), or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, or Nuprin). Ice may also be used in acute injuries, but most cases of bursitis or tendinitis are considered chronic, and ice is not helpful. When ice is needed, an ice pack can be applied to the affected area for 15-20 minutes every 4-6 hours for 3-5 days. Longer use of ice and a stretching program may be recommended by a health care provider.
Activity involving the affected joint is also restricted to encourage healing and prevent further injury.
In some cases (e.g., in tennis elbow), elbow bands may be used to compress the forearm muscle to provide some pain relief, limiting the pull of the tendon on the bone. Other protective devices, such as foot orthoses for the ankle and foot or splints for the knee or hand, may temporarily reduce stress to the affected tendon or bursa and facilitate quicker healing times, while allowing general activity levels to continue as usual.
The doctor or therapist may use ultrasound (gentle sound-wave vibrations) to warm deep tissues and improve blood flow. Iontophoresis may also be used. This involves using an electrical current to push a corticosteroid medication through the skin directly over the inflamed bursa or tendon. Gentle stretching and strengthening exercises are added gradually. Massage of the soft tissue may be helpful. These may be preceded or followed by use of an ice pack. The type of exercises recommended may vary depending on the location of the affected bursa or tendon.
If there is no improvement, the doctor may inject a corticosteroid medicine into the area surrounding the inflamed bursa or tendon. While corticosteroid injections are a common treatment, they must be used with caution because they may lead to weakening or rupture of the tendon, especially weight-bearing tendons such as the Achilles (ankle), posterior tibial (arch of the foot), and patellar (knee) tendons. If there is still no improvement after 6-12 months, the doctor may perform either arthroscopic or open surgery to repair damage and relieve pressure on the tendons and bursae.
If the bursitis is caused by an infection, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics.
If a tendon is completely torn, surgery may be needed to repair the damage. After surgery on a quadriceps or patellar tendon, for example, the patient will wear a cast for 3-6 weeks and use crutches. For a partial tear, the doctor might apply a cast without performing surgery.
Rehabilitating a partial or complete tear of a tendon requires an exercise program to restore the ability to bend and straighten the knee and to strengthen the leg to prevent repeat injury. A rehabilitation program may last 6 months, although the patient can return to many activities before then.
Can bursitis and tendinitis be prevented?To help prevent inflammation or reduce the severity of its recurrence:
Related category HEALTH AND DISEASE
Source: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
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