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Home » Anatomy » Olecranon Bursitis: What Is It and How Is It Treated?

Olecranon Bursitis: What Is It and How Is It Treated?

Olecranon bursitis is a common condition that causes inflammation and swelling of the olecranon bursa, a fluid-filled sac that sits behind the elbow joint. The bursa helps to cushion the olecranon process, the bony point at the end of the ulna (the forearm bone).

Olecranon bursitis can be caused by a number of things, including:

  • Trauma: A direct blow to the elbow, such as falling onto a hard surface, can damage the bursa and cause inflammation.
  • Repetitive use: Activities that involve repeated bending and straightening of the elbow, such as weightlifting or playing sports, can also irritate the bursa and lead to bursitis.
  • Infection: A less common cause of olecranon bursitis is infection. This type of bursitis is called septic bursitis and requires prompt medical attention.
  • Underlying medical conditions: Some medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout, can increase the risk of developing olecranon bursitis.

Symptoms of Olecranon Bursitis

The most common symptom of olecranon bursitis is a painful swelling behind the elbow. The swelling may be warm to the touch and may be red or bruised. Other symptoms may include:

  • Pain when bending or straightening the elbow
  • Difficulty using the arm
  • Tenderness to the touch
  • A feeling of fullness or tightness behind the elbow

Diagnosis of Olecranon Bursitis

The diagnosis is usually made based on a physical examination. The doctor will examine the elbow and look for the characteristic swelling and tenderness. In some cases, the doctor may order an ultrasound or MRI to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions, such as a fracture or infection.

Treatment for Olecranon Bursitis

The treatment depends on the severity of the condition. In most cases, conservative treatment is effective. This may include:

  • Resting the elbow and avoiding activities that aggravate the pain
  • Applying ice to the elbow for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day
  • Taking over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Wearing a compression sleeve or brace to support the elbow

In some cases, the doctor may recommend aspiration of the bursa. This involves using a needle to drain the fluid from the bursa. Aspiration can be done in the doctor’s office and is usually very effective in relieving pain and swelling.

In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the bursa. This is usually only done if the bursitis is recurrent or if it does not respond to other treatments.

Olecranon Bursitis treatment at home

Olecranon bursitis, characterized by inflammation and swelling at the tip of the elbow, can often be managed at home through rest, application of ice packs to reduce swelling, and elevation of the affected arm. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help alleviate discomfort. Wearing cushioning pads on the elbow can prevent further irritation, and avoiding activities that aggravate the condition is recommended. However, if symptoms persist, worsen, or if there are signs of infection (such as redness, warmth, or fever), it’s crucial to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment.


There are a few things you can do to help prevent olecranon bursitis, including:

  • Avoiding activities that put stress on the elbow
  • Using proper lifting techniques
  • Wearing protective gear when playing sports
  • Keeping the elbow clean and dry
  • Treating any underlying medical conditions that may increase the risk of bursitis


Olecranon bursitis is a common and treatable condition. However, if you experience pain and swelling behind your elbow, it is important to see a doctor to get a diagnosis and treatment plan.

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