Skip to Content
Home > Health Information > Health Library > Olecranon Bursitis (Popeye Elbow)
Bursitis is an inflammation of small sacs of fluid (bursae) that help joints move smoothly. Olecranon bursitis, which affects the olecranon bursa at the back of the elbow, is sometimes called Popeye elbow. This is because the bump that develops at the back of the elbow looks like the cartoon character Popeye's elbow.
There are three general causes of olecranon bursitis:
Symptoms of olecranon bursitis may include:
Your doctor can likely diagnose olecranon bursitis from a medical history and physical exam. If the swelling is the result of an injury, X-rays may be necessary to determine whether the elbow is fractured.
If your doctor is concerned about an infection in your elbow, he or she may drain fluid from the elbow with a needle and have the fluid tested by a lab.
Treatment for sudden (acute) bursitis may include drainage of excess fluid in the sac with a needle, followed by injections of medicines into the sac to decrease inflammation and promote healing.
Treatment for ongoing (chronic) bursitis focuses on teaching you to avoid leaning on your elbows, protecting your elbows during sports activities with elbow pads, and using anti-inflammatory medicines. Antibiotic medicines may be needed to treat infection, and surgery may be needed to drain or remove (excise) the bursa.
Current as of: June 26, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Current as of:
June 26, 2019
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2019 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
See important information from Billings Clinic on Non-discrimination and Interpreter Services.
Billings Clinic is proud to be an equal opportunity/affirmative action (EOE/AA) e-verify employer.