The olecranon bursa forms a cushion between the bones of your elbow and your skin. This cushion can become inflamed due to trauma (hitting your elbow) or pressure (leaning on your elbows), resulting in bursitis of the elbow. Gradual swelling in elbow bursitis is usually characteristic of a chronic low-level process, while sudden swelling usually results from acute injury or infection.
Elbow bursitis is characterized by swelling with or without pain. There may also be some restriction of motion. Treatment follows the general RICE guidelines: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. You should see a doctor, however, if the swelling occurred suddenly or you experienced a traumatic injury. Bursitis that does not respond to standard treatment may require draining of the bursa or surgical removal.