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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.
Usually bursitis 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, you can get bursitis once or several times.
Without seeing your health care provider, you usually can't tell the difference between bursitis and pain caused by a strain or arthritis.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of bursitis may include:
What Causes It?
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.
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
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 remove some fluid from the bursa with a small needle to check for infection. You may also need a blood test to check for other health problems.
Often just 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 and prevent further flare-ups.
Surgical and Other Procedures
In rare cases, the bursa is surgically removed.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Alternative therapies may help reduce the pain and inflammation of bursitis.
Nutrition and Supplements
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:
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, herbs should be taken with care, under the supervision of a health care provider.
The below herbs 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 -- 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 people have less pain and increased range of motion. Chiropractors are likely to use other treatments in addition to spine and joint manipulation, such as ice massage and ultrasound therapy, in treating bursitis.
Exercising the muscles around your joints will help 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 don’t get better with treatment. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions for resting the joint to allow the swelling to go away.
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 your health care provider tells you to.
Be sure to tell your health care provider if you are pregnant.
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Review Date: 12/31/2011
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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