What is the Difference Between Arthritis and Bursitis

Heel pain, woman touching her right heel

While arthritis and bursitis may appear similar due to the pain involved, they are distinct conditions with different causes and symptoms. Knowing these differences can lead to more efficient management. This article will discuss their similarities and differences and possible ways to relieve their symptoms.

What are bursitis and arthritis?

Olecranon bursitis, swollen elbow, black background

Bursitis is the inflammation of one or more bursae, the fluid-filled sacs responsible for reducing friction in the joints. This condition may result from repetitive pressure, trauma, overuse, or systemic diseases. It is common in the shoulders, elbows, knees, and hips. Bursitis generally presents as a localized pain that becomes more intense with pressure or movement.

Arthritis, on the other hand, is a broad term that covers over 100 conditions that affect the joints, causing pain and inflammation. The most common forms are osteoarthritis, typically associated with wear and tear, and rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system attacks the joints. Unlike bursitis, arthritis is often chronic, and its pain may be experienced even during periods of rest.

See related: Psoriatic Arthritis vs Rheumatoid Arthritis: Understanding the Differences

Similarities of bursitis and arthritis

Man touching his right foot's toes

Several factors make arthritis and bursitis similar to each other. Here are some of the common factors between the two conditions:

  • Symptoms: They present with similar symptoms, including pain, swelling, and reduced range of motion in the affected joints.
  • Risk factors: Factors like age, joint injury, and repetitive motions can increase the risk of both conditions.
  • Treatment: They can both require similar treatment approaches, including rest, physical therapy, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Surgery might be an option for severe cases.

Differences between arthritis and bursitis

Woman's left leg, illustration of pain in the knee and ankle, woman is holding a glass of water in her left hand and a pill on the right hand

Though both conditions have shared features, arthritis and bursitis present distinct differences that prescribe divergent diagnostic and treatment approaches.

  1. Root cause. Arthritis stems from inflammation within the joint due to cartilage degeneration or anomalous immune response.Meanwhile, bursitis arises from inflammation of the bursae outside the actual joint.
  2. Duration. Predominantly, arthritis is a chronic and progressive disease, while bursitis occurs temporarily in acute episodes and might not persist for extended periods if adequately managed.
  3. Sites. Arthritis has the potential to impact any joint and frequently affects several joints simultaneously, while bursitis tends to target specific sites like joint areas in the shoulder, elbow, hip, or knee, where bursae are more abundant.

Still unsure what causes your pain? Essential oils can help with relief

Various essential oils and tinctures in bottles

In addition to medical treatments, you may find relief in natural remedies like essential oils. There are essential oils that studies prove to have activities that can reduce inflammation and pain. Here are the essential oils you can use to alleviate your pain, whether it is from arthritis or bursitis.

  • Arnica [1]
  • Frankincense [2] [3]
  • Lemongrass [4] [5]
  • Cinnamon [6]
  • Bergamot [7] [8]
  • Cypress [9] [10]
  • Myrrh [11] [12]

These essential oils must be diluted with a carrier oil before use. You can also enjoy different combinations of these oils, properly diluted and mixed with all-natural ingredients, using CANhaveTODAY’s all-natural products. A quick note: These products contain Sodium borate. The government of Canada does not recommend the use of products containing Sodium borate on open wounds, cuts, or abrasions.

Front view of CANhaveTODAY's Healing Legends, Waters Mist, and Soothing Juggernaut side by side
  • Soothing Juggernaut, a soothing salve formulated with arnica, frankincense, and cypress essential oils. This product can help save you from the pain and discomfort of bursitis and arthritis.
  • Waters Mist is a salve containing the properties of lemongrass and cinnamon essential oil, with the additional benefits of tea tree oil! This product will not only help you relieve your pain but will also assist in your skin’s fight against bacteria!
  • Healing Legends, a salve made with the essential oils from the ancient legends frankincense and myrrh, and with the powerful bergamot essential oil, can aid in providing comfort to your pain. This salve can also help by imparting its reparative properties to your skin!

See related: Which essential oil is good for arthritis?

Is it arthritis or bursitis?

Man with painful elbow, holding his elbow, grayscale

Arthritis and bursitis, while exhibiting certain similar characteristics, are distinct in their causative factors, duration of impact, and influence on the body. Awareness of these defining factors aids in the comprehension of these conditions, positively aiding in the management of bursitis and arthritis.

Therefore, though both conditions have common grounds in presenting pain and discomfort in the joints, recognizing the small yet significant differences is important. But if you need relief from the pain and discomfort, you can seek help from anti-inflammatory and analgesic essential oils like those in CANhaveTODAY’s Soothing Juggernaut, Waters Mist, and Healing Legends.

Remember to test the products on a small patch of skin and wait 24 hours to see if there will be any negative reaction or irritation on your skin. This article should also not replace professional medical advice. Always consult healthcare professionals for diagnosis and treatment of health issues.


What are the differences between arthritis and bursitis?

Arthritis is the inflammation of the joint while bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa, a fluid-filled sac that cushions other tissues from the bones. Arthritis is a chronic and generally progressive disease, while bursitis is temporary. Moreover, arthritis can affect several joints in one flare up, while bursitis only affects one joint.

What cream is good for bursitis?

Creams containing anti-inflammatory and/or pain relieving components can help with bursitis.

How long does knee bursitis last?

Knee bursitis, if properly rested, lasts for a couple of weeks.

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