Bursitis and Tendinitis


Bursitis is inflammation (swelling, heat) or irritation of a bursa. Bursae are small sacs between bone and other moving parts, such as muscles, skin or tendons. The bursa allows smooth gliding between moving parts.

Tendonitis is inflammation or irritation of a tendon. Tendons are thick, fibrous cords that connect muscles to bone. They send the power caused by a muscle contraction to move a bone.


Tendons and bursae are located near joints. Inflamed soft tissues will often be felt by patients as joint pain. This will be mistaken for arthritis. Symptoms of bursitis and tendonitis are similar. They include pain and stiffness that gets worse when moving. Pain may be felt more at night. Almost any tendon or bursa in the body can be affected. Those located around a joint are affected most often. Tendonitis and bursitis are usually temporary. However, these conditions may come back often or become ongoing. They do not cause deformity, but they can limit motion.


The most common cause of tendonitis and bursitis is injury or overuse during work or play. This is particularly true if the patient is unfit, has bad posture or uses the affected limb in an awkward way. Sometimes an infection in the bursa or tendon will cause the area to be inflamed. Tendonitis or bursitis may be linked to other conditions. These include rheumatoid arthritis, gout, psoriatic arthritis, thyroid disease and diabetes.


Diagnosis calls for a careful medical history and physical exam. may be used to rule out bone problems or arthritis. Drawing tissue from a swollen bursa may be done to check for infection or gout. Blood tests may be ordered to find out if other conditions exist, such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes. Generally, blood tests are not needed to diagnose tendonitis or bursitis.


Treatment of these two problems is based on the cause. If overuse or injury is the cause, the patient may be told to reduce or avoid a particular activity. Taking the right body position during problem activities is important in preventing the injury from coming back. A warmup before and correct posture during exercise is useful. Splinting the area, applying moist heat or ice, and using other forms of physical therapy are helpful. Medications can reduce inflammation and pain. Steroid injections into the area are usually helpful.

If there is an infection, an appropriate antibiotic will be given. Surgical procedures may also be required. Surgery for other forms of tendonitis or bursitis is not usually done.

Once tendonitis or bursitis goes away, preventing the condition from coming back is crucial. Proper conditioning, comfortable workstations, correct joint positioning, and splints or pads to protect affected areas are helpful.

Persistent pain should be treated by a physician. A rheumatology expert is best suited to treat tendonitis and bursitis.

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
Want More Information?

Cedars-Sinai has a range of comprehensive treatment options.

Looking for a Physician?

Choose a doctor and schedule an appointment.

Need Help?


Available 7 days a week, 6 am - 9 pm PT

Need Help?


Looking for a Physician

Choose a doctor and schedule an appointment.