Arthritis Bursitis

The Difference Between Arthritis and Bursitis

While arthritis and bursitis are not exactly the same, the symptoms and treatment are usually very similar for both conditions.  For example, both can cause pain, swelling and limit use of the affected area.

Below is a look at the differences between arthritis and bursitis.

What it Means

Arthritis is the inflammation of the joints. Bursitis is the inflammation of the cavity around the joints, called a bursa. Arthritis limits movements, because the joints themselves are swollen. Bursitis limits movement because the bursa is filled with fluid.

While both arthritis and bursitis affect the same area – the joints – arthritis affects the joints directly, while bursitis affects the joints indirectly.


Another important difference between arthritis and bursitis is what causes each condition.  Arthritis is most commonly caused by the degeneration of tissue around the joints as one ages. While this is the most common cause, other possibilities include auto-immune diseases, such as Lupus. These diseases can cause arthritis in someone who has not experienced any tissue degeneration.

Bursitis is not caused by aging tissues. Instead, it is usually a trauma of some sort that brings on the condition.  Overuse of the muscles or infections within the joints are other causes of bursitis. Interestingly, in some cases, bouts of arthritis can actually trigger bursitis.


The symptoms for bursitis are pretty simple: pain and, in some cases, limited movement. That pain can be gradual or come on suddenly.  Listing symptoms for arthritis is a bit more complicated. The reason for that is that there are nearly 100 types of arthritis and not all symptoms are present with every type.

In addition to pain and swelling, other symptoms may include warmth, redness and stiffness. Again, the symptoms will depend on the type of arthritis.


As mentioned above, the treatment for arthritis and bursitis are often quite similar. The treatment will depend on several factors including the severity and type of the condition.

For mild cases, simply resting the affected area may be enough to keep symptoms in check. Sometimes, however, the patient does not want to do that or it doesn’t help enough. Then the patient would try additional treatment options.

Over the counter medications, particularly an anti-inflammatory, can be helpful in treating arthritis and bursitis. If these drugs do not provide enough relief, a prescription medication, such as Celebrex or Toradol may be prescribed.

Of course, some prescription medication is stronger than others, so which your doctor chooses will depend on the severity of your symptoms.

Physical therapy is another treatment option. While physical therapy cannot cure arthritis and bursitis, it can help patients retain or regain as much motion and use of the affected joints as possible.  Part of physical therapy may include teaching you methods of controlling your pain and swelling, such as with the use of heat or cold packs.

Both arthritis and bursitis can be very painful and, in some cases, can cause people to stop doing some of the things that they enjoy. The good news is that with proper care and treatment, many who suffer with these conditions can remain active.