Bursitis occurs when the small sac (bursa) found inside joints becomes inflamed. The fluid-filled sac helps to lubricate and cushion the joint. When it is inflamed, it can hurt to move.
Bursitis usually occurs in larger joints, such as the shoulder, hip, knee, or elbow. It is often caused by repetitive motion. Although bursitis usually goes away in a few weeks with treatment, it can recur.
Without seeing your health care provider, you usually cannot tell the difference between bursitis and pain caused by a strain or arthritis.
Symptoms of bursitis may include:
Usually the bursa becomes irritated or injured after overuse from repetitive motion or strenuous activity. A bacterial infection may also cause bursitis. Other health problems, such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis, can also cause bursitis.
Your doctor will ask you where the joint hurts and feel the joint for swelling or tenderness. Your doctor may order an x-ray or use a small needle to remove fluid from the bursa to check for infection. You may also need a blood test to check for other health problems.
Resting and elevating the joint can help. A splint, sling, or other device can support the joint and keep it from moving. Applying ice or heat may help relieve pain and swelling. Once the joint is no longer painful, you can work to strengthen the muscles around the joint, which may help prevent further flare-ups.
In rare cases, the bursa is surgically removed.
Alternative therapies may help reduce the pain and inflammation of bursitis.
Eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fatty fish to help reduce inflammation. Avoid processed foods and foods high in sugar and fat. The following supplements may help. Supplements may not be appropriate for all people and may have side effects and/or interact with medications. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your physician before adding a supplement to your regimen.
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care under the supervision of a health care provider.
The herbs listed below may help reduce inflammation. They also can increase the risk of bleeding. People who take blood-thinning medications, such as aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), or warfarin (Coumadin), should ask their doctor before taking them.
Although few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional homeopaths may consider the following remedies for the treatment of bursitis based on their knowledge and experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type, includes your physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for each individual.
Acupuncture can help reduce swelling and inflammation and relieve pain.
Although no well-designed scientific studies have looked at whether chiropractic treatment helps bursitis, chiropractors often treat people with this condition. They report that some persons have less pain and increased range of motion. In addition to spine and joint manipulation, chiropractors are likely to use other treatments to treat bursitis, including ice massage and ultrasound therapy.
Exercising the muscles around your joints helps reduce pressure on the joint and bursa. Gentle yoga may help bursitis by increasing flexibility and reducing muscle tension. Other movement therapies, such as Pilates and Tai Chi, may also help improve muscle and ligament strength and reduce the tension caused by repetitive motions.
You should not use massage if your bursitis is caused by an infection. Otherwise, massage, especially myofascial release therapy, may help you relax and may reduce the discomfort from a sore joint.
Tell your health care provider if your symptoms do not get better with treatment. Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions for resting the joint to relieve the swelling.
You can help prevent bursitis from coming back by avoiding repetitive motions, resting between periods of intense activity and warming up before starting an activity.
DO NOT take aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for more than a few days unless instructed to do so by your health care provider.
Be sure to tell your provider if you are pregnant.
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Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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