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Doctor's Diagnosis: Bursitis

Patients with bursitis will experience tenderness and pain,

Patients with bursitis will experience tenderness and pain, especially when using the joint. Credit: Jack Hollingsworth

BURSITIS

Last summer, after years of being a terrible golfer, I completely changed my golf swing. The results were certainly surprising: my game improved tremendously but, by the end of August, my left elbow was the size of a baseball. My new golf swing had caused a classic case of bursitis.

A bursa is a fluid-filled sack found in many joints that helps cushion and aid movement. Normally we don’t even know they are there. They can become inflamed due to a variety of causes, such as infection or trauma, but most often due to overuse of the joint. Shoulders, elbows, hips and knees are frequently involved. For example, people who kneel for prolonged periods while gardening or laying carpet can develop bursitis of the knee. The stress of playing a lot of golf a less-than-perfect golf swing can cause bursitis of the elbow.

Patients with bursitis will experience tenderness and pain, especially when using the joint. In severe cases such as mine, the swelling can become rather impressive as the inflammation causes increasing amounts of fluid to accumulate in the bursa.

Treatment consists of trying to rest the joint by avoiding the activities that caused the problem. Icing it, wearing an elastic bandage or brace and taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents such as Motrin or Aleve also may be helpful. If these conservative measures don’t work, the bursa can be drained, but there is a risk of infection. RarelyIn rare cases, the bursa needs to beis removed surgically.

In my case, for almost a month, I had to stop playing golf, wear an elastic brace and take a nonsteroidal. By then the season was almost over so I only played one or two more times in the fall. I’ve spent the winter trying to strengthen my elbow by working out at the gym. Now that golf season is here, I hope to get through it without a recurrence.

 

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Dr. Stephen Picca of Massapequa is Board Certified in both Internal Medicine and Anesthesiology. He is retired from practice. Questions and comments can be sent to Dr. Picca at health@newsday.com.

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