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.


  • Pain and swelling over the back of the elbow.
  • Symptoms may come on rapidly from direct trauma, or develop over time with repetitive stress.
  • If the bursa is infected, the skin may appear red and feel warm.


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. A padded elbow support should be worn for activities where pressure will be put on the elbow for long periods.

Avoid leaning on elbows at a desk or table.


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.


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. A doctor may recommend anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen. Aspirating the bursa is an option in some cases.

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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