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Dealing with bursitis of the elbow

Elbow bursitis is the most common types of bursitis. The bursa found outside of the tip of the elbow is known as olecranon bursa can be inflamed and swollen. This condition is called elbow bursitis or olecranon bursitis.

Elbow bursitis happens in the olecranon bursa, which is a sac filled with fluid that functions as cushion and lubricant between the skin and the boney tip of the elbow or the olecranon. It has a thin outer membrane called the synovium and an inner fluid called the synovial fluid. When the synovium becomes inflamed and irritated it results to bursitis


Repetitive pressure placed on the elbow such as resting the elbows on hard surfaces.

Symptoms of elbow bursitis

  • Swelling at the back of the elbow.
  • The olecranon bursa swells with fluid and the enlargement can be felt and can be seen through the skin. It swells to 6-7 cm long by 2.5 cm wide and result in a bump.
  • Tenderness of the affected area
  • Elbow pain
  • Limited range of movement. Difficulty in flexing or completely straigthening the elbow.
  • Warm when touched
  • Redness and fever


  • Repetitive pressure placed on the elbow such as resting the elbows on hard surfaces.
  • Trauma to the affected area such as a blow or fall on the elbow which can result to inflammation on the synovial membrane of the bursa.
  • Conditions such as osteoarthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis and pseudogout can cause inflammation of olecranon bursa.


  • Take plenty of rest and avoid performing activities that will cause inflammation on the bursa and for fast healing of the condition.
  • Wear elbow pads for protection of the elbow bursa from pressure or additional irritation placed on the affected area.
  • Apply cold compress on the swelling elbow for at least 20 minutes 2-3 times every day to lessen the symptoms and lessen the swelling. Avoid ice directly on the skin. Wrap ice using a towel or cloth before placing to the area to prevent ice burns and worsen the condition.
  • Compress the area using an elastic compression bandage such as ACE bandage. Wrap around the affected joint to lessen the swelling. Avoid wrapping it too tight to prevent problems with circulations.
  • Elevate the area above the level of the heart to lessen the inflammation. When lying down, raise the area in couple of pillows to keep it elevated.
  • Take the prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen to lessen the inflammation and the swelling and also relieved of the pain caused by elbow bursitis.
  • Injection of the prescribed corticosteroid directly into the inflamed bursa to relieve of the pain and the swelling. Corticosteroid is a strong anti-inflammatory medication.
  • After the symptoms of elbow bursitis have been reduced, perform some stretches and strengthening exercises with the help of the physical therapist and also restore the normal range of movement of the affected area.

Disclaimer / More Information

The material posted on this page on elbow bursitis is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage this joint condition by taking a first aid and CPR class with one of our training providers.

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