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TriHealth Orthopedic & Sports Institute

Bursitis (olecranon)

Elbow bursitis is a painful condition that can interfere with your daily life. And it’s one more condition that the team of experts at TriHealth Orthopedics & Sports Institute and Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine diagnoses and treats – getting you back to your favorite activities pain-free.

Elbow Bursitis (Olecranon Bursitis)

Elbow bursitis (also called olecranon bursitis) is when the bursa sacs in your elbow become inflamed or irritated. These bursa sacs, found throughout your body, act as a cushion between joints and muscles, tendons and bones.

The bursa sac in your elbow is called the olecranon bursa. It provides a layer between the skin and pointy bone in your elbow. When the olecranon bursa becomes very inflamed, it can make your elbow swollen and large, leading to the condition’s nickname “Popeye’s elbow.”

Elbow bursitis causes

The most common causes of a swollen elbow include:

  • Frequently laying on or bumping the elbow
  • Gout
  • Infection
  • Kidney failure
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Trauma

Elbow bursitis symptoms

The most common symptoms of olecranon bursitis include:

  • Pain when you bend your elbow
  • Pus that drains from an infected bursa
  • Redness or warmth around the elbow
  • Swelling at the elbow
  • Tenderness at the elbow

Elbow bursitis treatment

A swollen elbow caused by olecranon bursitis can usually be treated with a conservative approach. Your orthopedic specialist may recommend any of the following treatments:

  • Compression sleeve – A compression sleeve can help reduce inflammation and swelling at the elbow.
  • Anti-inflammatory medicine – Pain can sometimes be managed with anti-inflammatory medication.
  • Modify activities – Reduce pain and swelling by not putting pressure on your elbow.
  • Antibiotics – Medicine to fight an infection of the bursa will reduce swelling.
  • Draining the fluid – Aspirating the fluid in the bursa sac will reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Injections – Corticosteroid injections and other injections can sometimes help reduce inflammation and pain from elbow bursitis.

If pain and swelling continue after a conservative approach, or your bursa repeatedly becomes inflamed, your doctor may recommend surgery. During surgery, your surgeon will remove your bursa to decrease you pain and discomfort.

Elbow bursitis risk factors

You may be at higher risk of developing elbow bursitis if you:

  • Are older
  • Have an occupation or hobby that requires you to put pressure on your elbow
  • Have a preexisting condition, like arthritis or diabetes

Elbow bursitis prevention

You may not be able to completely prevent a swollen elbow from bursitis, but you can lower your risk:

  • Avoid putting stress on your elbow joint
  • Eat healthy
  • Manage chronic conditions
  • Stay active
  • Stretch and warm up the elbow joint before activities

Schedule an appointment

The specialists at TriHealth Orthopedics & Sports Institute and Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine are here to help you return to your daily activities – free of pain. To learn more or make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist: Call TriHealth at 513 246 2300 or our orthopedic partner, Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, at 513 354 3700.

TriHealth Orthopedic and Spine Institute
TOSI: 513 246 2300
Beacon: 513 354 3700
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