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Bursitis Pain Relief and Management

Bursitis Pain Relief and Management


Bursitis pain relief and treatment methods are numerous and varied, as are the types of bursitis. The type of treatment mainly depends on the cause of the bursitis, and whether it is traumatic, chronic, or septic. In addition, several other factors help to determine the treatment.

It is important that a doctor diagnoses your bursitis.  An infected bursa, known as septic bursitis, is a serious condition and is often difficult to diagnose without aspirating the fluid from the affected and testing it.

Immediate Pain Relief Options

Take an anti-inflammatory medication. When the pain of bursitis flares, take an anti-inflammatory recommended by your doctor to relieve the pain.  Because the bursa is inflamed, anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin, naproxen, or ibuprofen will decrease inflammation to provide pain relief.  Your doctor will know which is best for you and your situation. [!]

Ice the affected area: Ice may be helpful to reduce the pain and swelling associated with bursitis.  Apply an ice pack to the affected area for 20-30 minutes two to three times daily. [@]

Apply compression: Depending on the joint affected, an elastic bandage wrapped around the joint may provide relief following icing. [%]

Elevate the affected area: Elevating the affected area will help to remove fluid.  Following compression, elevate the affected area above the heart if possible for 20-30 minutes twice daily. [%]

Long-term Bursitis Pain Relief

The goal to reducing the pain associated with bursitis is to reduce the swelling and heal the bursa.   [!]

Rest: Bursitis generally occurs when the bursa become inflamed due to repetitive irritation.  The most obvious course of treatment is avoidance of the aggravating activity and to rest the affected joint until the bursa is healed.  This doesn’t mean you should admit defeat and retire to bed rest.  Simply choose activities that do not involve the affected joint.

Braces and padding: Depending on the joint affected, braces and padding may be helpful in immobilizing the joint limiting its motion and allowing it time to heal.

Corticosteriod injections: If there is no improvement following standard therapies, corticosteroids can be injected directly into the affected area quickly decreasing inflammation and pain.  They can be repeated but are generally used with caution as frequent, long-term use does carry side effects and may lead to weakening of the tendon. [!]   Oral corticosteroids are sometimes used for long-lasting inflammation. [$] Corticosteroids are not indicated for septic bursitis. [@]

Physical Therapy: If you have experienced a decline in your range of motion, physical therapy may be prescribed.  This therapy may include exercising the muscles around the joint to reduce pressure on the joint and bursa, or light exercises such as yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi.  Additional therapies include electrical stimulation, ultrasound, and phonophoresis, though some experts question their effectiveness. [%]

Antibiotics: Antibiotics may be indicated in the case of septic bursitis. [$]

Alternative Bursitis Treatment Options

Nutrition and supplements: Though the scientific evidence is mixed, glucosamine sulfate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, and bromelain may help reduce inflammation and repair cartilage. Nutritional supplements can interact with other medications and also carry side effects, for example glucosamine sulfate increases the risk of bleeding and should not be taken with blood-thinning medications.  It is important that you seek advice from a healthcare professional before taking these.  [$]

Herbal and homeopathy remedies: Boswellia, turmeric, white willow, evening primrose oil, arnica gel, arnica, ruta graveolons, bellis perennis, and rhus toxicodendron have been associated with relieving specific symptoms of bursitis. However, a healthcare professional, as well as a professional herbalist or homeopathic doctor should be consulted before using any of these remedies. [$]

Acupuncture: Acupuncture treatments may reduce the swelling, inflammation, and pain of bursitis. Though currently the evidence is primarily anecdotal from patients who have experienced relief from the procedure, a few promising studies have indicated its effectiveness. [^]

Chiropractic or Massage therapy: May improve range of motion and reduce pain. However, massages should not be used for septic bursitis. [$]

Treatment Factors

Healthcare professionals have many options when treating bursitis and its accompanying pain. The treatment methods will depend on:

  1. Location and cause of bursitis.
  2. Extent and expected course of condition.
  3. Patient’s overall health, medical history, and age.
  4. Patient’s tolerance and preference for specific medications, therapies, and procedures.
  5. It is highly important to consider the aforementioned factors when treating bursitis. People who are taking anticoagulants or have peptic ulcers can be endangered by certain medications and herbs. Also, anyone with allergies to ibuprofen, aspirin or salicylates needs to be cautious.




[$] University of Maryland Medical Center

[!] National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Questions and Answers About Bursitis and Tendinitis.

[@] John Hopkins Medicine-Department of Orthopaedic Surgery
Patient Guide to Bursitis

[#] American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
A Closer Look at Bursitis

[%] Zhang, Yawei-Editor
Encyclopedia of Global Health, volume 1
Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 2008. Print.

[^] American Journal of Chinese Medicine: Ma, T
A study on the clinical effects of physical therapy and acupuncture to treat spontaneous frozen shoulder
2006; Volume: 34; No: 5; Pages: 759-775


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