Olecranon bursitis, commonly known as “elbow bursitis,” is the inflammation of the bursa located at the tip of the elbow, known as the olecranon. A bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac that reduces friction and provides a cushion between bones and soft tissues such as muscles and tendons. When the olecranon bursa becomes irritated or inflamed, it can lead to symptoms such as pain, swelling, and restricted motion in the elbow joint.


Olecranon bursitis can be caused by various factors, including:

  1. Trauma or Impact: Direct injury or impact to the elbow can lead to inflammation of the bursa.
  2. Repetitive Motion or Pressure: Frequent leaning on the elbow or repetitive movements can irritate the bursa over time.
  3. Infection: A break in the skin over the elbow can allow bacteria to enter and infect the bursa.
  4. Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout, can also cause or contribute to bursitis.
  5. Other Factors: Rarely, olecranon bursitis can occur for no apparent reason, which is known as idiopathic olecranon bursitis.


Common symptoms of olecranon bursitis include:

  • Swelling at the tip of the elbow
  • Pain, particularly when pressing on or moving the elbow
  • Redness and warmth, especially if an infection is present
  • Restricted range of motion

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis usually involves a physical examination and may include imaging tests such as X-rays or ultrasound, as well as fluid analysis if infection is suspected. Treatment often depends on the underlying cause and may include:

  1. Rest and Elevation: To reduce swelling and inflammation
  2. Ice Packs: For pain relief and to reduce inflammation
  3. Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Such as ibuprofen, for pain and inflammation
  4. Aspiration: In some cases, the fluid in the bursa may be aspirated (drained) using a needle.  This should be done cautiously as it may cause an inflamed non-infected bursitis to become infected bursitis.
  5. Antibiotics: If infection is present
  6. Corticosteroid Injections: For severe or chronic cases to reduce inflammation
  7. Surgery: Rarely needed, but may be considered for chronic or severe cases that do not respond to other treatments

As always, diagnosis and treatment should be conducted by a healthcare provider. If you suspect you have olecranon bursitis or any other medical condition, consult a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

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