Bursitis is when a joint becomes painful and swollen. It can usually be treated at home and should go away in a few weeks.

Check if you have bursitis

Bursitis happens when the fluid-filled sacs (bursa) that cushion your joints become inflamed.

You might have bursitis if 1 of your joints is:

The area may also be red. This can be harder to see on darker skin.

Bursitis can affect any joint, but it's most common in the shoulders, hips, elbows or knees.

How to treat bursitis yourself

To help bring down swelling and pain you can:

It may also help to put extra cushions around the affected joint while you sleep, to help protect and support it.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • your symptoms have not improved or are getting worse after treating it yourself for 1 to 2 weeks
  • you have a high temperature, or you feel hot and shivery
  • you cannot move the affected joint
  • you have very severe, sharp or shooting pains in the joint

What happens at your GP appointment

They may take a sample of fluid from the affected joint using a needle (aspiration). This will be sent off to test for an infection and conditions, such as gout.

The aspiration may also help your symptoms. It might be done in your GP surgery or you may be referred to the hospital.

If your symptoms do not get better, you may also be referred for other tests.

Treatments for bursitis

How to stop bursitis coming back


  • maintain a healthy weight – being overweight puts more pressure on your joints

  • clean any cuts on elbows and knees to prevent infections

  • warm up properly before exercising and playing sport

  • use padding when putting a lot of pressure on joints (for example, when kneeling)

  • take regular breaks if you do things that put pressure on a joint, like kneeling


  • do not knock or bang your joints

Page last reviewed: 29 December 2020
Next review due: 29 December 2023