Elbow flexibility is crucial for doing many jobs and playing many sports. However, this part of the body is prone to bursitis, which is often treated by orthopedic doctors. The condition is an inflammation of the bursa, the thin, fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion to prevent the elbow bone from rubbing against muscles, tendons, and skin.  Here's a brief guide to the condition's causes, symptoms, and treatments.

FAQs About Elbow Bursitis 

What causes the condition?


The bursa is located between the bony point of the elbow and the skin. Falling on or taking a blow to this part of the elbow—while playing a sport, for example—can irritate and inflame the bursa, causing the sac to fill with extra fluid. Overuse of the elbow can also cause the condition. People in professions where repetitive arm movements are common, such as plumbers, gardeners, and mechanics, are at increased risk of elbow bursitis. Arthritis and gout are two conditions that can inflame the fluid sacs, too. 

What are the symptoms?

Swelling at the back of the elbow is common. You might notice pain when you bend your elbow or rest it on a desk or other hard surface. If the skin was cut during a fall, bacteria can get inside the sac and cause an infection. If that happens, the area becomes red and warm to the touch and a fever is possible.

What does treatment entail?

Your orthopedic doctor might prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to manage pain and antibiotics to fight infections. They might also recommend wearing wraps, pads, or special sleeves to compress, cushion, and support the elbow.  If those treatments aren't effective, outpatient orthopedic surgery is the next step. The affected bursa is removed during surgery and the arm is put in a splint. A new bursa grows in place of the removed one within a few months. 

What are the aftercare requirements?

After surgery, take antibiotics and other medications as your orthopedic doctor prescribes. They might also recommend physical therapy or provide instructions for at-home exercises to improve elbow strength and range of motion. By taking these steps, you should be able to fully use your shoulder within a few weeks.


For treatment of elbow bursitis, reach out to Orthopedic Associates of Hawaii, which has been a fixture in the state since 1968. Their team provides physical therapy and surgical services from locations on Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island. Explore the treatment options online and call (808) 536-2261 for a consultation.