Elbow bursitis is caused by the inflammation of the bursa located between the skin and bones of the elbow, known as the olecranon bursa. Accordingly, elbow bursitis is also known as olecranon bursitis.
Elbow bursitis can be caused by an injury or constant pressure on the elbow. For example, it can happen when leaning your elbow on a hard surface. This condition is characterized by redness and swelling and is often a common source of pain and discomfort for many people.
The bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs that cushion the bones, tendons, muscles, and tissues throughout your body – including near your elbow joint. They are very thin structures that serve to decrease the friction between hard bone and softer tissues. When there is too much friction, they react by getting inflamed or irritated. When this occurs, they sometimes produce fluid to make more cushion, which makes them considerably thicker.
Common symptoms of elbow bursitis include:
- Swelling: Swelling over the tip of the elbow is the initial symptom.
- Pain: Around the back of the elbow. This occurs with direct pressure on the elbow, such as when resting the elbow on a hard surface. Some people with this condition however experience swelling with no pain.
- Redness and/or Warmth: Occasionally, the olecranon bursa can become inflected. Additional systems when this occurs include a fever with skin around the bursa becoming warm and red.
- Limited range of motion of the elbow.
Common causes of elbow bursitis include:
- Traumatic Accident: Such as falling on the elbow or hitting the elbow on a hard surface.
- Resting Elbows on Hard Surfaces: Resting the elbow on a hard surface for an extended period of time, such as typing on a computer keyboard.
- Septic Bursitis: Also called infected elbow bursitis, which may occur after an injury in which the skin behind the elbow is cut or irritated, allowing bacteria to enter.
People with certain medical conditions such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis can be more prone to develop elbow bursitis.