Olecranon bursitis involves swelling and inflammation in the small sac filled with fluid at the tip of the elbow joint. This bursa forms a soft covering over the tip of the elbow and enables the skin to smoothly slide while bending or extending the elbow.
Once it becomes inflamed usually from a repetitive activity or a direct blow, the bursa might increase the production of fluid. This results to swelling and a sore bubble at the elbow tip. Aside from the elbow, it can also occur in the shoulder, knee and other joints in the body.
What are the causes?
Olecranon bursitis can develop after sustaining a direct blow to the elbow tip. In most instances, it is secondary to a fall and athletic individuals are more susceptible. Oftentimes, the condition develops from repetitive stress to the joint during activities in which the elbow is forcefully used in swinging such as in golf, tennis or baseball. In addition, continuous leaning on the elbow is also a contributing factor.
Signs and symptoms of olecranon bursitis
- Swelling at the elbow tip
- Elbow stiffness
- Pain if pressure is applied to the elbow tip
- Bubble that protrudes from the elbow with or without reddening
How is it diagnosed
A diagnosis is usually made after a physical exam of the arm and a detailed history is taken. An X-ray might be requested to rule out other conditions. A blood sample or fluid analysis of the bursa might also be done to determine the exact cause of the fluid and rule out other any associated infection.
Olecranon bursitis typically responds to conventional measures within a few weeks such as the following:
- Application of an ice pack on the affected elbow
- Using protective elbow pads or compression sleeves
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Cortisone injections
- Drainage of excess fluid from the bursa using a needle
Surgery is not required in managing the condition but there are cases in which it is an option. The bursa is removed surgically to allow a normal bursa to form over time.