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Bursitis and arthritis are two conditions that are frequently mistaken for one another. The primary difference is that bursitis is inflammation of a fluid-filled sac, called bursa, within a joint. This sac helps cushion joints. Arthritis, on the other hand, is inflammation of the joint itself and involves cartilage damage. Sometimes the two conditions can occur together.
Both bursitis and arthritis can cause pain, swelling and stiffness around the joint. With bursitis and some cases of arthritis, the area will feel warm to the touch. The similarity in symptoms is why it is difficult to tell if you have bursitis or arthritis.
Bursitis commonly occurs in the knees and elbows, while arthritis occurs more frequently in the hands; however, this is not a hard and fast rule. In most cases, you will need to visit a medical provider to find out which condition you have.
Arthritis can be caused by injury, general wear through daily activities, infections or, in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease.
Bursitis is typically caused by overusing the joint through repetitive motions. Tennis elbow is one name for bursitis of the elbow and is caused by the repetitive movement of the elbow joint. Factory workers that perform tasks requiring these kinds of repetitive movements are also at risk for bursitis.
Anti-inflammatory pain relievers are helpful for treating either bursitis or arthritis – especially when you have both. Both also benefit from topical pain relievers such as Super Blue Stuff OTC Pain Relief Cream. Topical creams are a safer alternative to oral medicines.
Hot packs and cold packs provide some comfort to arthritis sufferers and, to a lesser extent, to some bursitis sufferers. Heat therapy draws extra blood to the area and soothes pain. Cold therapy helps reduce swelling and numbs the pain. Individual results and preferences vary regarding using heat or cold for relief.
Arthritis patients usually benefit from special exercises to keep joints flexible and active. Movement may aggravate bursitis cases even more, however, so check with your doctor first.
When oral and topical pain relievers do not provide enough relief from bursitis, an infection may be the cause. During outpatient procedures, your doctor can perform tests to make sure the bursa is not swollen and painful due to infection – if infection is the cause, antibiotics may be in order.