A swollen bursa is a swelling of a fluid-filled sac (bursa) that can occur in the skin and subcutaneous tissue. It is most commonly found on the front of the knee, but it can also be found on other joints, such as the elbow. One of the most common causes of a swollen bursa is a direct blow to the bursa or an injury that results in damage to its contents. Other causes include repetitive movements, repetitive stress, and friction.

Common symptoms


Pain with movement, including activities like coughing, sneezing, laughing


Swelling at night or swelling that increases when resting on the back


Redness, swelling, or tightness around the affected area

Limited motion

Decreased range of motion in the affected area


Locking or inability to move joint


Clicking noises when moving the joint

Common treatment methods

Applying warm compresses and use ice packs to decrease swelling.

Medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen can help reduce pain and swelling in a swollen bursa but should not be used for more than five days because of their side effects.

Steroid injection therapy may be used to provide relief to the symptoms by reducing inflammation and swelling.

Physical therapy for swollen bursa includes stretching and massage of the affected joint to help reduce swelling, as well as to increase circulation around the area.

Frequently asked questions

How do I know if my pain is from a swollen bursa or from something else?

Most people will not realize they have a swollen bursa until it becomes painful to the touch or there is visible swelling. If you are unsure, a visit will be worth it.

How long does it take for swelling on swollen bursa to go away after treatment?

Swelling on a swollen bursa usually resolves on its own in about the first week. If the swelling doesn’t go away, it may indicate that the bursa is infected or that other complications are present.

When should I see a doctor about my swollen bursa?

Even after suspecting they might have a swollen bursa, many people don’t go and suffer from pain and discomfort for weeks. If you think you have got one, consider seeing a doctor. Swollen bursa is readily treated by most doctors.

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