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Elbow Bursitis


Elbow bursitis (ber-SEYE-tis) is swelling and pain of the elbow bursa. A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion or shock absorber between a tendon and a bone. A tendon is a cord of tough tissue that connects muscles to bones. Although you cannot feel it, the elbow bursa is behind your elbow (over the pointed tip). With elbow bursitis, the bursa becomes inflamed (red and sore) and filled with too much fluid. This may be caused by overuse, injury, infection (in-FEK-shun) or repeated pressure on the elbows. Olecranon (oh-LEK-rah-non) bursitis is a type of elbow bursitis when the bursa in your elbow becomes inflamed. With treatment, your bursitis should go away in one to two weeks.



  • Always take your medicine as directed by caregivers. If you feel it is not helping, call your caregiver. Do not quit taking it unless your caregiver tells you to.
  • Keep track of what medicines you are taking and when and why you take them. Bring a list of your medicines or the medicine bottles when you see your caregivers. Ask your caregiver for information about your medicines.
  • Antibiotics: You may be given antibiotics (an-ti-bi-OT-iks) to fight infection if needed. Take them until they are all gone even if your elbow begins to feel better.
  • NSAIDs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicine may decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine can be bought with or without a doctor's order. This medicine can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. Always read the medicine label and follow the directions on it before using this medicine.
  • Steroid injection: If your caregiver gave you a steroid (STER-oid) injection (shot), follow your caregiver's instructions. Rest your elbow for as long as your caregiver told you to, even if your elbow feels better.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

How can I take care of my elbow bursitis at home?

R.I.C.E. is a four-step treatment plan that you can follow. R est, I ce, C ompress and E levate your arm to decrease swelling and help your elbow heal.

  • Rest: Resting your elbow as much as possible will decrease swelling and keep the bursitis from getting worse. When the pain decreases, begin normal, slow movements.
  • Ice: Ice causes blood vessels to constrict (get small) which helps decrease inflammation (swelling, pain, and redness). Put crushed ice in a plastic bag and cover it with a towel. Put this on your elbow for 15 to 20 minutes, three to four times each day. Do not sleep on the ice pack because you can get frostbite.
  • Compress: You may wrap your arm with tape or an elastic bandage to keep your elbow from swelling. Loosen the elastic bandage if your fingers begin to tingle or turn blue.
  • Elevate: Elevate (raise) your arm to help decrease swelling. Keep your elbow at a level above your heart by gently propping your arm on pillows.

How can I protect my elbows and help prevent elbow bursitis?

  • Keep pressure off your elbows. Do not lean on your elbows a lot, such as when working at a desk.
  • Avoid hitting or bumping your elbows. Wear elbow pads or protectors when you begin normal activities. Continue to wear them whenever you do activities that could cause bumping or hits to your elbows.
  • Do not grip small items too tightly. This includes using tools and writing with pens or pencils. Try not to clench your fists.
  • Take breaks when doing activities or exercises that use repeated movements. This includes swinging a pick or hammer, vacuuming, and playing tennis. Taking breaks may help to prevent injury caused overusing your elbows. Wear an elbow strap when playing sports that use repeating movements, such as tennis.
  • Warm-up and cool-down. Start exercising when caregivers say that it is OK. Always warm up your muscles and stretch gently before exercising. Do cool-down exercises when you are finished. This will loosen your muscles and decrease stress on your elbow.
  • Start treatment right away if you feel bursitis signs and symptoms. Follow the R.I.C.E. plan (rest, ice, compression and elevation) whenever you have swelling, warmth or pain in your elbow.


  • You have a fever.
  • Your pain and swelling increase.
  • Your bursitis is not better after 10 days of treatment.
  • You develop new, unexplained symptoms.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Elbow Bursitis (Discharge Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference