Bursitis: Definition and What it is

Medically and clinically reviewed by Jonathan Lee, MD and Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT

Bursitis Definition and Meaning

Bursitis is the inflammation of a bursa — a small, fluid-filled sac that acts as a gliding surface to cushion the area near joints where bones sit closely to muscles, tendons, or skin, in order to prevent friction during movement. 

This condition typically results from either repetitive use or injury, which can cause bursa to become irritated, leading to discomfort. Bursitis can sometimes be triggered by other issues, including arthritis, gout, tendinitis, diabetes, and thyroid disease.

Bursitis Symptoms

The most common symptoms of bursitis include a feeling of stiffness or achiness at the affected joint with pain that often worsens with movement or pressure. This pain can also lead to a more limited range of motion; swelling and redness at the site are also common.

Types of Bursitis

There are hundreds of bursae all over the body. Anywhere there’s bursae, there’s the potential for bursitis. It’s commonly found near joints that are highly mobile, like at the knees, hips, shoulders, heels, and elbows

Bursitis: A Hinge Health Perspective

Learning about conditions that cause pain can be alarming. We know from Hinge Health members and research studies that anatomical labels can backfire when it comes to your treatment and recovery. When people hear they may have a condition like bursitis, it may cause feelings of panic, like you have something "wrong" that needs to be fixed. This way of thinking about pain is largely outdated.

Pain is more complex than simply what may or may not be happening at your affected joint. Other factors, like life stressors, can also play a big role in how you experience pain. And for most common musculoskeletal conditions, regardless of what may or may not be contributing to pain in your tissues, the solution is often the same. Movement — through physical and exercise therapy — builds strength and flexibility and resilience to pain. That's why Hinge Health physical therapists and doctors focus on helping members get moving with exercise therapy.

Bursitis Treatment

In addition to exercise therapy, there are a range of treatment options that can help manage the symptoms of bursitis. Depending on the location and severity of the bursitis, treatments can include over-the-counter pain medication, elevation of the affected joint, and ice and heat to reduce swelling. Lifestyle modifications, like focusing on gentler movements and taking more frequent breaks from certain repetitive motions, can also help.

How Physical Therapy Can Help With Bursitis

Physical therapy can aid in enhancing the range of motion of the affected joint. With targeted exercises and stretches, physical therapists (PTs) can help you safely mobilize the inflamed bursa, promoting healing and reducing pain. PTs can also focus on exercises that strengthen the nearby muscles and improve joint function in order to help prevent the condition from recurring. You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via a telehealth or video visit. 

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you. 

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. 

Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.


  1. Bursitis: Overview. (2018, July 26). National Institute of Health — Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK525773/ 

  2. Sheth, N. P. & Foran, J. R. H. (2022, February). Prepatellar (Kneecap) Bursitis. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/prepatellar-kneecap-bursitis/ 

  3. Bursitis. (2022, August 25). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bursitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20353242 

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