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Bursitis: What is this repetitive-stress injury?

As a worker, one kind of injury that you should watch out for is called bursitis. In the body, there are small sacs of fluid called bursae. These sacs cushion the bones, muscles and tendons that surround or connect with a joint.

Bursitis is the inflammation of that small sac of fluid. This leads to pain and dysfunction of the joint.

Where are the most common areas to develop bursitis?

Bursitis is most commonly developed in the elbows, hips and shoulders. You could have bursitis in your knees, the base of a toe or in the heel, too. In general, bursitis usually develops in areas where your body has to repeat motions over and over again.

Does workers' compensation cover repetitive stress injuries like bursitis?

Yes, workers' compensation does cover it when it can be linked to your job. For example, if you work on a factory line and often lift your arms to transfer products, you could develop bursitis in your shoulder. If your job has caused that bursitis or re-inflamed an older case of bursitis, then workers' compensation should cover your medical care.

What does it take to treat bursitis?

The interesting thing about bursitis is that it generally only needs rest to recover. However, there will need to be steps taken to reduce any risk of additional trauma. For example, if you take two weeks off work to allow the inflammation to go away, you may also need to change the way you stand or focus on better ergonomics when returning to work to prevent a flare-up of the condition. Interestingly, recurrent flares of bursitis are common, which could then be covered by workers' compensation in the future.

How will you know if you have bursitis?

Bursitis is painful, so pain will be the first sign. You may also feel weakness in the joint or notice that your joint is achy, red or swollen. It may hurt when you press on it.

You should see a medical provider right away if you have joint pain that makes it too difficult to use the joint. If you cannot move the joint or are dealing with excessive swelling or bruising, you should also seek medical attention. Imaging and lab tests may be used to identify bursitis and diagnose it. Once that happens, your medical provider will put together a treatment plan based on your specific symptoms and any complications.

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