That joint pain could be bursitis

Posted on 27 July 2018

Are you struggling with a painful joint? One of many possibilities is that you may be suffering from bursitis. Occupations that involve repetitive movements put you at a higher risk for developing this uncomfortable condition. We take a closer look at the symptoms and what you can do about them plus other conditions that are related to working in an office.

What is bursitis?

Bursitis occurs when a fluid-filled sac or cavity (bursa), which protects your bones, tendons and muscles, becomes inflamed. This condition affects the bursae near your joints, and common problem areas include shoulders, elbows and hips. Bursitis can also affect your knees and heels. If your joint hurts when you apply pressure or move, this may be an indication that you’re suffering from bursitis (but this does not rule out other conditions that present with similar symptoms).

Bursitis symptoms

Megan Crouse, a physiotherapist at Mediclinic Midstream, says: “Bursitis is an inflammatory condition so pain is often the main symptom but stiffness, achiness, redness and heat is often experienced in the joint. Often the pain is only with pressure on the bursa and is relieved by movement.”

What causes bursitis?

Bursitis is caused by repetitive movements that put pressure on the fluid-filled sacs (bursa) that cushion your joints. This painful condition is associated with sporting injuries and certain workplace conditions. Leaning on your elbows or kneeling for extended periods can result in inflammation of the bursae. An incorrect posture at work makes you more susceptible to this condition. If your occupation involves repetitive movements, it increases the chances of your bursae becoming inflamed.

Knee bursitis is prevalent in occupations that require kneeling postures to be sustained over extended periods. The following occupations have a higher risk of bursitis:

  • Construction workers (especially carpet layers and tile setters)
  • Food and meat processing workers
  • Gardeners
  • Carpenters
  • Musicians
  • Painters

Prevention and treatment

You can reduce your risk of developing bursitis by:

  • Using kneeling pads to decrease the pressure that is placed on your joints when you kneel.
  • Bending your knees when lifting heavy objects because lifting with straight legs increases the pressure on your hips.
  • Warming up with gentle stretching exercises before completing physically demanding tasks to help safeguard your joints against injury.
  • Exercising because physical activity strengthens your muscles, which helps to protect your joints.

Bursitis typically heals by itself but you can assist the process by resting, applying ice to the affected joint or by taking a pain reliever. If the pain persists contact your health professional as therapy may be required.

What are other common office-related conditions?

Office jobs are characterised by long hours of sitting at a desk. Research has connected careers with low levels of physical activity to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and a propensity for obesity. A sedentary job (and lifestyle) means fewer calories are burned and sitting for prolonged periods affects the way that muscles process glucose and fat. Sedentary occupations can also lead to type 2 diabetes (and other diseases linked to inactivity) as being overweight and inactive is a risk factor for this condition.

You can reduce your sitting time at work significantly by using standing or sit-stand desks or by introducing two-minute breaks at 30-minute intervals. Another helpful strategy is to use computer prompts to remind you to walk 100 steps at regular intervals. Hosting standing or walking meetings at work are other options.

Wrist, neck and back pain

Crouse adds: “Our most common office-related injuries are back and neck ache, which sometimes progresses into damage to the discs and nerves, shoulder impingement and ‘tennis’ or ‘golfers’ elbow. All of these conditions can be prevented by a proper work setup.”

An incorrect posture when sitting at a desk can result in wrist, neck and back pain. Improved ergonomics and a better posture play an important role in decreasing the risk of experiencing these conditions.

A proper work setup can be achieved by considering the ergonomics of your workstation. If you choose to sit, make sure that you invest in a chair that supports your back and change the height settings so that your knees are level with your hips. Place items that you use frequently, such as your stapler and pens, within easy reach. If you spend extended periods talking on the phone, use a speaker or headset to reduce strain on your neck.

Published in Orthopaedics

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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