Olecranon Bursitis

Typical Symptoms

Olecranon bursitis (OB) usually presents with swelling, redness and pain over the bony tip of the elbow and can also lead with limitation in movement and loss of function.

What causes it?

OB usually develops after pressure on the elbow, either after using the computer or having been in prone-lying position for a prolonged time. While the pain and limitation in movement are usually self-limiting, there can be residual swelling around the elbow for several days/weeks afterwards as the bursa gradually subsides.

How can I help myself?

It is important to identify why the symptoms may have developed and what to do to prevent it from occurring again. Simple measures to help reduce the swelling include following PRICE guidelines, using oral analgesia such as anti-inflammatories, resting the elbow and limiting excessive movement. Looking at your desk position can help and addressing this might limit the recurrence.

When to seek help?

Despite trying these measures, if your symptoms are not improving and the swelling, pain and limitation is ongoing, perhaps you should consider seeking help.

What are the treatment options?

OB is essentially a clinical diagnosis and investigations are not altogether necessary, however your clinician should assess you with a thorough history and clinical examination.

In situations where pain is particularly bad, aspiration (drawing out the fluid) under ultrasound-guidance maybe possible with the injection of a small amount of steroid to help settle the pain symptoms. Unfortunately this does stop the problem recurring if you do not manage the underlying reason for it coming on. If it becomes chronic in nature, a surgical opinion maybe required.

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