The tip of your elbow may seem bony, but there’s actually a sac called a bursa that sits between the bones that make up the elbow. Elbow bursitis, also known as students elbow, occurs when this sac becomes inflamed or irritated, resulting in pain during activity and while at rest, swelling, difficulty in moving the elbow, and sometimes a feeling of warmth around the elbow.
Elbow bursitis can be caused by trauma, such as a fall, or long-term pressure on the elbow from leaning on it. Infection from a cut or scrape can also cause the bursa to swell, and this infection is what leads to the feeling of warmth some people with elbow bursitis experience. Because falls can cause elbow bursitis, athletes who play sports that put them at risk of falling, such as ice skating, hockey or gymnastics, or at risk of getting hit on the elbow, such as cricket, are at increased risk of this condition. But anyone who falls and experiences elbow trauma can get elbow bursitis.
If you think you have elbow bursitis, see your doctor or sports medicine professional. He or she likely will recommend that you immobilize the affected elbow; draining the fluid in the bursa may also be necessary, as may antibiotics if the bursa is infected. An X-ray of the elbow might be necessary to see if you have bone spurs; these sometimes are found in patients who get elbow bursitis often. Finally, surgery to remove the affected bursa might be necessary if lesser measures prove ineffective.
To prevent elbow bursitis, wear elbow pads to protect your elbow from getting hit with a ball and to cushion it if you fall.