Arthritis and bursitis are similar chronic pain conditions, in that they both cause painful inflammation that originates from a joint, such as hip or shoulder. The key difference involves the specific structure within the body that is inflamed.

Another major difference is that arthritis is a chronic condition that damages bone, joints and cartilage irreparably, and bursitis is a temporary condition involving the painful swelling of bursae for a shorter period of time.

There are many pain management treatments available that can alleviate the pain and inflammation caused by both conditions. The one you get will depend on the type of arthritis and bursitis you have, with the goal being to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.

Common Symptoms…Different Root Causes

Arthritis and bursitis manifest themselves in similar symptoms, but the root causes of each are quite different. With arthritis, the problem lies with the joints or one particular joint. While there are about 100 types of arthritis, the most common are:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA): Known as a “wear-and-tear” disorder, OA is a result of the cartilage that cushions joints wearing down over time.
  • Inflammatory arthritis (IA): This type of arthritis includes rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and psoriatic arthritis (PsA), and happens when your immune system attacks the joints.

The word arthritis means joint inflammation; the word bursitis means inflammation of the bursa. These are tiny sacs found throughout the body, usually around tendons or joints, and their purpose is to lubricate joints while reducing friction as a result of movement. 

The sacs are typically empty, but can become filled with fluid when inflamed or irritated, resulting in bursitis.

Because arthritis and bursitis cause similar symptoms, it can be tough to determine which one you have without the assistance of a doctor. The following symptoms can be associated with either arthritis or bursitis:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Redness

You may be able to determine which condition you have by the area of your body that is in pain. While bursitis may occur anywhere there is bursa, usually larger joints with more range of motion, such as the shoulder and hip, are common areas of flare-ups.

Rheumatoid arthritis can also show up in these areas, but you will likely feel pain in both hips, or one hip and a knee, for instance. Also, with RA, you can experience non-joint symptoms, such as extreme fatigue or unexplained fevers. 

The length of time you’re in pain will differ between the two as well. While bursitis can come on suddenly like an injury and last for many days or weeks, osteoarthritis will pop up slowly and stay forever.

Treatment for Arthritis

Here’s a look at the many medications and lifestyle strategies you can use to treat arthritis:

  • PT or OT
  • Medication
  • Non-pharmacological therapies
  • Weight loss
  • Splints/joint assistive aids
  • Patient education and support
  • Joint replacement

Treatment for Bursitis

Bursitis will usually get better on its own through rest, ice and pain relievers. If these don’t work, you may need:

  • Medication such as antibiotics.
  • Physical therapy or exercises to strengthen the muscles in the affected area, for easing pain and preventing recurrence.
  • Corticosteroid injections to relieve pain and inflammation in the shoulder or hip.
  • Assistive devices such as canes to relieve pressure on the area.
  • Surgery, in the case of inflamed bursa that has to be drained.

Both conditions can be alleviated with non-invasive, non-surgical treatments to relieve pain with little to no recovery time.

Contact Summit Spine and Joint Centers for Arthritis or Bursitis Treatment

Get in touch with Summit Spine & Joint Centers today at (770) 962-3642 to schedule your consultation at one our 24 pain centers including our featured June location for Pain Management in Canton, GA.