What’s the Difference Between Bursitis and Arthritis?

What’s the Difference Between Bursitis and Arthritis?

Do you have joint pain? If you’re like everyone else, you want relief. The first step in getting relief is finding the source of your joint pain.

At CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center, with multiple locations in Maryland, our team of board-certified physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists can identify the cause of your chronic joint pain and provide solutions to give you relief. In this blog, they explain the difference between arthritis and bursitis.

The most common causes of joint pain

Acute joint pain is often caused by injury, such as from a sprain, a strain, or a tear. Chronic joint pain is more likely to be caused by repetitive use, aging, and the wearing away of joints over time.

Two common causes of chronic joint pain are arthritis and bursitis. Each condition requires different treatments, which means getting a correct diagnosis is key. 


There are a number of kinds of arthritis, but osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are two of the most common.

Osteoarthritis is mechanical, which means it’s caused by the breakdown of the joint components over time. This type of arthritis occurs because the cartilage — which is the protective tissue inside your joint — and the synovial fluid — which is the lubricant inside your joint — diminish to the point that bone starts to rub against bone.

The result is deep aching and grinding pain that can severely limit mobility. Osteoarthritis is usually diagnosed with X-rays and MRIs.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks healthy joint tissue. The result is often swelling, redness, heat, and pain in the affected joints. This condition usually affects the same joints on both sides of the body, and it’s usually detected via a blood test.

There’s no cure for arthritis, but different pain relievers and immune medications can be used depending on the arthritis type, and lifestyle changes can often provide some relief and slow progression of the disease.


Bursitis is an entirely different kind of ailment. With bursitis, the fluid-filled sacs that cushion your joints get inflamed. Most patients first see bursitis in a hip, shoulder, or elbow, but some people end up with inflammation in their big toe, heel, or knee. The entire joint swells up, and the joint can look misshapen or almost out of joint.

The biggest difference between bursitis and arthritis is that bursitis can be temporary and curable. Bursitis often goes away on its own with rest and anti-inflammatory medications. In severe cases, steroids can be used to reduce swelling, or the bursa can be drained to remove excess fluid.

Are you struggling with joint pain? We can help. We can give you a thorough evaluation, find the cause, and help you get relief. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center today. Our Maryland offices are located in Hyattsville, Gaithersburg, Lanham, Dundalk, Oxon Hill, Rosedale, and Olney, and we have two offices in Baltimore.

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