Olecranon Bursitis

Olecranon Bursitis

Article by Zoe Russell

Olecranon Bursitis

What is Olecranon Bursitis?

Olecranon bursitis, commonly known as ‘student’s elbow’, arises when the bursa at the elbow tip becomes inflamed. This bursa, a small fluid-filled sac, plays a crucial role in reducing friction between tendons and bones around joints. It often inflames due to trauma, such as a fall or a hit, or through repetitive actions like throwing or excessive leaning on the elbow.

Recognising the Symptoms

The hallmark signs of olecranon bursitis include swelling and pain at the back of the elbow. These symptoms worsen when leaning on the elbow or during elbow movements, particularly when straightening or fully bending it.

olecranon bursitis
Olecranon Bursitis

Underlying Causes: More Than Just an Injury

While physical impact is a common cause, olecranon bursitis can also stem from internal factors. Repetitive trauma from certain activities, poor muscle control, or technique during sports can gradually inflame the bursa. Moreover, it can be a secondary issue linked to chronic conditions like fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis.

Diagnosis: The First Step to Recovery

A healthcare provider, typically a doctor or physiotherapist, starts with a physical examination, focusing on elbow swelling. Advanced diagnostic tools like ultrasound or MRI may be used for a definitive diagnosis.


Treatment primarily aims at managing pain and reducing inflammation. This includes ice therapy and anti-inflammatory medications.

In some instances, a corticosteroid injection may be administered to kickstart healing. However, the cornerstone of treatment lies in rehabilitation, focusing on preventing the olecranon bursa being traumatised.

Surgery, though rare, becomes an option in persistent cases, involving the removal of the inflamed bursa.

Recovery Timeline and Expectations

Recovery varies, with some cases resolving within weeks, while chronic situations might take months. With proper management and rehabilitation, most individuals see significant improvement within six weeks.

Prevention: A Key Aspect

Preventive measures are as important as treatment. They include avoiding repetitive elbow strain, maintaining good physical condition, and using proper techniques during activities. Regular exercises to strengthen the muscles around the elbow also play a crucial role in prevention. Your sitting posture at your workstation or student desk is also critical.

Conclusion: Your Health, in Your Hands

Olecranon bursitis, while painful, is manageable with the right approach. Understanding the condition, recognising its symptoms, and seeking timely professional advice are essential steps. Physiotherapists offer not just treatment but also guidance on prevention and maintenance. If you experience persistent elbow pain, it’s crucial to seek the advice of a physiotherapist or your doctor.

Takeaway: Don’t Ignore Elbow Pain

Ignoring symptoms can lead to chronic issues. Early intervention by a physiotherapist can ensure a quicker and more effective recovery. Remember, taking care of your elbows is taking care of your active life.

Elbow Pain Causes, Diagnosis, and Effective Physiotherapy Management


Elbow pain, a common ailment affecting people of all ages, can disrupt daily activities and diminish quality of life. This article, informed by physiotherapist insights, explores the various causes of elbow pain, emphasising the importance of early diagnosis, accurate assessment, and tailored physiotherapy interventions.

Understanding Elbow Pain

Elbow pain can stem from various sources, ranging from tendinopathy to nerve compression. Identifying the root cause is key to selecting the most effective treatment.

Elbow Pain Causes
Elbow Pain Causes

Common Elbow Pain Causes

Tennis Elbow and Golfer's Elbow:

Tennis Elbow and Golfer's Elbow, caused by overuse or strain of the elbow tendons, are prevalent among athletes and those engaging in repetitive arm movements. More info: Tennis Elbow, Golfer Elbow.

Olecranon Bursitis:

Olecranon Bursitis is inflammation of the bursa near the elbow joint leads to pain and swelling.

Youth Elbow Pain:

Conditions like Thrower's Elbow and Little League Elbow are common in young athletes due to repetitive stress. More info: Youth Arm Pain

Neck-Related Arm Pain:

Issues in the neck, like Cervical Radiculopathy or Neck Arm Syndrome can manifest as elbow pain.

Muscle-Related Pain:

Muscle strains and repetitive strain injuries (RSI) often present as elbow discomfort.

Medical Conditions:

Stress fractures, fibromyalgia, and various types of arthritis can also lead to elbow pain.

Recent Research Insights

Recent studies highlight the effectiveness of targeted physiotherapy in treating elbow pain. Techniques such as manual therapy, specific exercises, and other therapies have shown promising results in reducing pain and improving function.

The Role of Physiotherapy in Treating Elbow Pain

Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in the management of elbow pain, focusing on alleviating discomfort and restoring normal function.

Key Physiotherapy Interventions

  1. Personalised Exercise Programs: Tailored exercises to strengthen and stretch the affected muscles.
  2. Manual Therapy: Hands-on techniques to improve joint mobility and reduce pain.
  3. Pain Management: Use of modalities like ice, heat, and ultrasound to manage pain and inflammation.
  4. Education and Advice: Guidance on activity modification and ergonomics to prevent recurrence.

The Importance of Early Intervention

Early physiotherapy intervention can prevent the progression of symptoms and facilitate a quicker return to daily activities.

When to Seek Professional Advice

Consult a physiotherapist or doctor if you experience persistent or worsening elbow pain. They can conduct a comprehensive assessment and develop a personalised treatment plan.

What to Do?

If you're experiencing elbow pain:

  1. Rest: Avoid activities that exacerbate the pain.
  2. Apply Ice: To reduce swelling and pain.
  3. Seek Professional Help: A physiotherapist can provide expert advice and treatment.


Elbow pain, though common, can be effectively managed with physiotherapy. Understanding the cause, seeking early treatment, and adhering to a personalised care plan are vital for a successful recovery.

For more detailed information on elbow pain causes and treatments, visit PhysioWorks, where you can find resources and professional advice tailored to your condition.

Does A Tennis Elbow Brace Help?

A tennis elbow brace is a useful tool for supporting an injured elbow during the healing process. By redirecting the forces away from the affected area, it can help to reduce pain and protect the injured area. Immediate pain relief is often noticed upon wearing the brace, which can allow individuals to return to their normal activities while wearing it.

However, if the brace does not provide immediate pain relief, there could be two possibilities: the condition is severe and requires consultation with a physiotherapist, or the pain is not caused by tennis elbow, and a thorough assessment by a physiotherapist is needed to determine the root cause of the pain.

To use the tennis elbow brace safely and effectively, it should be placed around the broadest part of the forearm when doing activities that would otherwise cause pain. Research has shown that using a tennis elbow brace can reduce pain and improve grip strength for most tennis elbow or golfers elbow sufferers. By absorbing the pain-causing forces that would typically exert through the injury site, the brace can decrease pain and speed up the healing process.

More info

Elbow-Related Arm Pain

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