Elbow Bursitis (Students Elbow)

Students Elbow bursitis

Elbow bursitis, also known as Students elbow or Olecranon bursitis, is swelling and inflammation of the bursa at the back of the elbow. Here we explain the symptoms, causes, and treatment for elbow bursitis.


Symptoms may come on rapidly from direct trauma, or develop over time with repetitive stress.

  • The most obvious sign is a painful swelling at the back of your elbow.
  • You will be unble to place weight on your elbows, for example when resting them on a desk or table.
  • If the bursa is infected, then your skin may appear red and feel warm.
Elbow bursitis

What is Elbow bursitis?

Elbow Bursitis

A bursa is a sack of fluid found in joints between tendons and bones. Its purpose is to prevent friction and help lubricate movement.

Inflammation or bleeding into a bursa can cause it to become inflamed and painful. It is often called student’s elbow as repeatedly leaning on the elbows whilst studying can result in this injury.

What causes Elbow bursitis?

Olecranon bursitis to give it its proper name may occur from one sudden impact such as being hit by a ball, or from repetitive friction.

Repeatedly leaning on your elbows (like many students do) can cause pain as the bursa can become inflamed. It could also be caused by a direct impact.

Elbow bursitis can be prevented by wearing elbow pads or elbow guards for sports where impact to the elbow is possible such as Cricket, Baseball or Football.

Elbow bursitis treatment

Rest and apply ice or cold therapy. The is to help reduce pain and inflammation. Cold should be applied for 10 minutes every hour until the pain and swelling have gone down.

Wear a padded elbow support to protect the inflamed bursa. This should be worn especially for activities where your may put pressure on your elbow for long periods. Avoid leaning your elbows at a desk or table.

A doctor may recommend anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen.

Aspirating the bursa is an option in some cases. This is where a needle is inserted into the bursa and the fluid sucked out.

In severe cases, a doctor may immobilize the arm or give a steroid injection.

If conservative treatment fails then a surgeon may operate for elbow bursitis.

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