Elbow bursitis is brought on by a variety of activities and risk factors. The main causes and risk factors of elbow bursitis are profiled below:

Repetitive pressure on the elbow. Most often bursitis is caused by frequent "mini-traumas," which can cause the same problems as a single, more serious trauma. People who often rest their elbows on hard surfaces may develop elbow bursitis, hence the nickname "student's elbow." People who frequently support their body weight while resting on their elbows are also susceptible to developing elbow bursitis, such as those whose jobs require them to be in this position.

Previous injury. A trauma to the affected area, such as a fall or a blow to the elbow, could cause the bursa to fill with blood, which may irritate and inflame the bursa's synovial membrane. Even though the body reabsorbs the blood, the membrane may stay inflamed, causing bursitis symptoms.

Article continues below
Advertisement

Possible Causes of Bursitis

Osteoarthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Gout

Pseudogout

Another underlying condition. The elbow's olecranon bursa can become inflamed as the result of another condition, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and pseudogout. In these instances, the treatment for elbow bursitis must accompany treatment for the underlying condition.

History of inflammation of the bursa. Patients who have had bursitis in the past have an increased chance of getting it again.

Infection. About 20% of people with elbow bursitis bursa have septic bursitis, meaning the olecranon bursa is infected. Infection can reach the bursa through a cut, puncture or even an insect bite. It is possible to have septic bursitis without an obvious cut or scrape; sometimes the root cause of infection is unknown.

Certain medical conditions and medications suppress people's immune systems and make them more susceptible to developing septic bursitis. For example, people with cancer, HIV/AIDS, lupus, alcoholism, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and diabetes may be more likely to get septic bursitis.

Pages:
More Resources in the Bursitis Center