What is a bursitis elbow?


A bursa is a cushion of tissue lying between skin and tendons and bone. In the elbow, the olecranon bursa lies over the undersurface of the elbow and allows flexibility, cushioning and stretching of the skin when we bend our elbows. The bursa can become fluid-filled and inflamed leading to bursitis. This can be secondary to exercise, repeated activities and direct pressure in this area. In some cases, this can occur secondary to inflammatory arthritis, for example, rheumatoid arthritis and gout, which can also lead to other tissue thickenings and joint pains.

What are the symptoms of elbow bursitis?

The main symptoms are usually pain and swelling. Patients in more chronic cases complain of the significant size of the bursa which can be difficult with clothing and lead to poor cosmesis. Inflammatory flares of an elbow bursitis can lead to loss of function of the arm and be extremely debilitating. In some cases, the bursa can become infected.

How is it diagnosed?

It is diagnosed by taking a careful history and performing a detailed examination. It is important to exclude other potential causes and assess for other diagnoses such as inflammatory arthritis. Blood tests, Xray, ultrasound and MRI scan are extremely important to exclude other pathology within the joint and to help to exclude infective causes.

How is it treated?

Treatment begins with symptomatic management including pain killers and rest. Avoidance of any activities causing direct pressure on the elbow is extremely important. In certain professions, the use of elbow pads is essential to prevent a recurrence. Injections and aspirations are typically avoided to prevent any seeding of infection and as they are unlikely to lead to long term improvement.

For more prolonged cases failing to respond to these simple measures, a careful discussion with the patient regarding the options will be undertaken. A surgical excision is an option for certain cases and the individual risks and benefits can be discussed with the surgeon.

If you or someone you know has suffered an injury or is experiencing pain in their shoulder or difficulty with moving the shoulder, arm or elbow and would like a consultant-led review, please contact us. Grosvenor Orthopaedics have extensive experience in the treatment of ACJ injuries with excellent patient outcomes.


Grosvenor Orthopaedics have extensive experience in the treatment of should & elbow -related injuries with excellent patient outcomes.


If you would like to learn about other shoulder & elbow conditions click the button below to find out more


If you would like to learn about other shoulder & elbow treatments click the button below to find out more

our specialist shoulder and elbow consultants

Shoulder and Elbow care at Grosvenor Orthopaedics is led by our consultant surgeons Mr W James White and Mr David Butt, both graduates of London medical colleges. They bring extensive experience to Grosvenor Orthopaedics having worked across Guys NHS Trust and the world renowned Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital.

Our team have broad experience in the successful treatment of a range of shoulder and elbow problems, addressing both young and sports related injuries as well as those relating to trauma, disease process and genetics.

Patients who choose Grosvenor Orthopaedic Partners for their treatment will receive some of the best care available in the UK. Our team are leading consultants across London’s shoulder and elbow clinics and offer specialist care to our private patients through King Edward’s Hospital, HCA Lister and other major private hospitals in central London.

Our team are well placed to manage and treat a diverse range of shoulder and elbow problems utilising cutting edge diagnostic technology and treatment approaches, both surgical and conservative. Below is an overview of some of the conditions we treat but for a more thorough understanding please contact our team here


Consultant Shoulder and Elbow Surgeon

FRCS(Tr&Orth), MBBS, BSc(Hons)
James is a Consultant Shoulder and Elbow Surgeon, practising at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, King Edward VII’s, The Lister Hospital Chelsea and HCA Chiswick Outpatient Clinic. His practice encompasses all aspects of shoulder and elbow surgery including arthroscopy, arthroplasty and trauma. He has a reputation as a thorough clinician, effective communicator and skilled surgeon. Through joint decision-making with the patient and utilising non-operative techniques where possible, he achieves the best possible outcomes for patients. When surgery is required, James has excellent outcomes based on his precise and prepared approach to operating.


Consultant Shoulder and Elbow Surgeon

FRCS(Tr&Orth), MSc, MBBS, BSc(Hons)
David is a Consultant Shoulder and Elbow Surgeon, practising at the world-renowned Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital Stanmore, King Edward VII’s Hospital and One Hatfield. His practice involves all aspects of shoulder and elbow surgery, from minor injuries to complex reconstructive procedures. He strongly believes in shared decision making and a patient-centred approach to treatment. He is a meticulous surgeon using up to date and evidence-based techniques to treat every patient’s individual needs.

What some of our patients say

Mrs EL

Thank you for taking great care of me throughout the whole operation process! My recovery has been much faster than anticipated and I am pain free after such a long time!