Elbow (Olecranon) Bursitis


Cushioning areas of friction between tendons and skin or bone, bursae are fluid-filled sacs. These sacs can be found wherever there are moving parts in the body and there are approximately 160 of them in the average human body.
Each bursa sac is lined with special cells called synovial cells. This fluid serves as a lubricant to make it easier for parts of the body to move. If this fluid becomes infected by bacteria or irritated because of too much movement, bursitis can occur.


What Causes Bursitis

The bursa in the elbow is located at the tip. Elbow bursitis can occur via:

  • A hard blow to the tip of the elbow.
  • Leaning hard on the tip of the elbow for extended period of times on a hard surface.
  • Getting a scrape or insect bite on the elbow tip that allows bacteria to get into the bursa and cause an infection.
  • Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout are also associated with the development of elbow bursitis.


Elbow Bursitis Symptoms

Swelling is often the first symptom of bursitis. Other symptoms include:

  • A loosening of the skin on the back of the elbow.
  • Pain as the bursa is stretched.
  • Restricted motion of the elbow.
  • If the skin becomes red and warm, if could be a sign of an infection.



If the bursitis is not caused by infection, doctors at the FHCH Sports Medicine Program will recommend:

  • The elbow be elevated and ice applied.
  • Use of an elbow pad to cushion the elbow.
  • Avoiding any direct pressure to the swollen region.
  • The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories to control pain and inflammation.
  • Removal of the fluid from the bursa and an injection of a corticosteroid medication into it may also be an option.

If the bursitis is caused by an infection -

  • The fluid will need to be aspirated (removed) from the swollen area. The removal of the fluid will help relieve the symptoms and provide the doctor with a sample that can be examined in the lab to see if there are any bacteria growing in it.

Learn about Elbow Bursitis surgery.

If you have questions about elbow bursitis or want to make an appointment with us, please contact one of our Patient Care Coordinators and they'll be happy to help you.