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A bursa is a gel-filled sac that helps muscles and tendons glide over bones. You have bursae in your shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and other parts of your body.

When bursae get swollen, they can cause joint pain. Bursa injection can help soothe joint pain caused by arthritis, bursitis and other painful inflammatory diseases.

How is bursa injection done?

The doctor will numb your skin with a local anesthetic. Then he or she will insert a thin needle into your bursa to inject a mixture of anesthetic and steroid.

You will be awake during the procedure. It only takes a few minutes, and you can go home the same day.

How effective is bursa injection?

Some patients report pain relief within 30 minutes after the injection, but pain may return a few hours later as the anesthetic wears off. Longer term relief usually begins in two to three days, once the steroid begins to reduce inflammation.

How long the pain stays away is different for each patient. For some, the relief is permanent. But if the pain returns, you can have another bursa injection in a few months, and up to four a year.

What are the risks?

The risk of complication from a bursa injection is very low. However, there could be bruising, swelling or inflammation at the injection site.

Bursa injections are well taken and very few post-injection complications are reported. The procedure is re-ported to have 60-66% improvement rates at follow-up visits 1 year and 5 years later. Patients who receive a corticosteroid bursa injection have been found to have a 2.7-fold higher chance of recovery at 5 years, as compared to patients who have not received the bursa injection.