An inflammation of the bursa at the elbow (bursitis olecrani) can be very painful. It usually occurs at the bony tip of the elbow. Bursitis olecrani is also called “student’s elbow” in English. The reason: If you repeatedly support your elbow at the table while learning, this can lead to bursitis in the long term. Read all the important information about bursitis – elbows!
Bursitis – elbows: How is it originated?
The medical term for bursitis of the elbow is bursitis olecrani. Translated this means: “bursitis of the elbow tip” (the bony tip of the elbow is called olecranon). It can have various causes:
Bursitis (elbow) due to repeated irritation
An inflammation of the bursa at the elbow is usually the result of repeated blows and the application of force to the elbow. This often affects people who work a lot at their desk and support their arm on their elbow for long periods of time. Doctors call the irritation and inflammation caused by prolonged support an atraumatic inflammation. This means that the cause of inflammation is neither an injury nor a one-time impact.
Bursitis (elbow) caused by bacteria
In the event of a cut or an operation on the elbow, bacteria can penetrate the body and lead to bursitis. In this case one speaks of septic inflammation. There is a risk that the infection will spread to the whole body and make the person affected very ill. Therefore, patients with bursitis olecrani should always be examined for skin injuries in the elbow region. Then, if necessary, one can prevent the bacteria from spreading at an early stage.
Note: Bursitis of the elbow is rarely caused by bacteria. In most cases it is a harmless (non-bacterial) inflammation.
Bursitis (elbow) with underlying diseases
Inflammation in the elbow joint can also be the cause of bursitis of the elbow. Such joint inflammations often occur in the context of another disease such as rheumatism or gout. Particularly in the case of recurrent bursitis of the elbow, such a deeper-lying cause can be behind it.
Bursitis – elbow: symptoms
Redness, swelling and tenderness in the area of the elbow are the most common signs of bursitis olecrani. Touching and pressure on the elbows cause severe pain. Bend movements are also very painful because inflammation causes fluid to flow into the tissue, increased blood flow and nerves to respond more sensitively to stimuli.
Especially with very severe symptoms, patients should go to the doctor. The sooner the inflammation is properly treated, the faster the symptoms usually go back.
Bursitis – elbow: treatment
As with all bursitis, bacterial inflammation must be ruled out first. If this is the case (so it is a simple bursitis on the elbow), the treatment is quite easy. Home remedies are particularly popular when bursitis begins (elbows): Cold wraps and envelopes can alleviate the symptoms and often prevent bursitis olecrani from developing fully. In addition to cooling, relieving the elbow is an important part of the treatment. Bursitis also responds well to anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or diclofenac (in tablet or ointment form).
If this treatment does not work well enough or if the bursitis keeps recurring, the doctor can give a cortisone injection into the bursa. If this does not help either, surgery must be considered (removal of the inflamed bursa).
Note: Bursa surgery is only an option if all other treatment methods have failed.
In the case of bacterial bursitis on the elbow, the surgical removal of the bursa is almost always necessary. In addition, the patient is treated with antibiotics. Close monitoring of the bursitis (elbow) is then essential so as not to endanger the patient’s health.