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Bursitis Treatment

Learn About Options for Bursitis Treatment

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Updated May 16, 2014

Below are suggestions for bursitis treatment and avoiding recurrences of this condition.  In order to speed healing of an inflamed bursa you should:

 

  • Rest and Protect The Area
    The first steps of bursitis treatment are to keep pressure off of the affected area, and try to limit your activity of that joint. Some individuals benefit from placing an elastic bandage (Ace wrap) or immobilizing brace around the joint until the inflammation subsides. Movement an pressure of the inflamed area will only cause exacerbation and prolongation on symptoms.
  • Apply an Ice Pack
    Icing the area of inflammation is an important aspect of bursitis treatment. The ice will help to control the inflammation and decrease swelling. By minimizing inflammation and swelling, the bursa can return to its usual state and perform its usual function.
  • Take Anti-Inflammatory Medications
    Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) include a long list of possibilities such as Ibuprofen, Motrin, Naprosyn, Celebrex, and many others.

    Bursitis treatment can be improved by these medications that will decrease pain and swelling. Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting these medications.

  • Cortisone Injections
    If the symptoms of bursitis are persistent, an injection of cortisone may be considered. Cortisone is a powerful anti-inflammatory medication, but instead of being given by mouth, it is injected directly to the site of inflammation. This can be extremely helpful for situations that are not improved with rest.

Prevention of Bursitis Symptoms

  • Strengthening and Physical Therapy
    Proper strengthening technique can help you avoid bursitis by using your muscles in a safe, more efficient manner. For example, patients with shoulder bursitis can learn ways to move the shoulder that will not cause inflammation. Do not begin exercises until the inflammation of bursitis has resolved!
  • Take Breaks
    Alternate repetitive tasks with breaks to relieve pressure. Don't perform one activity continuously for hours at a time.
  • Cushion Your Joints
    If your work involves an activity such as prolonged kneeling, use protective cushions. These can be purchased at hardware stores--ask for roofers pads.

The steps listed above are usually adequate bursitis treatment, and most patients have resolution of their symptoms. Learning to avoid activities that may cause a bursitis flare-up can also be important. If these steps are not sufficient, drainage of the bursa or surgical excision may also be considered. Usually, there are only necessary if the aforementioned treatments have failed.

As explained earlier, some cases of bursitis have a bacterial infection of the fluid in the swollen bursa. If this is the case, then the bursa will have to be drained, and you will need antibiotic treatment. It is important that you see your doctor if you think you may have infected bursitis.

Bursitis due to underlying conditions such as arthritis and gout are more difficult to treat and recur more frequently. The best management in these situations is to do your best to avoid flare-ups of gouty attacks or arthritic episodes, and to avoid activities which you have learned cause bursitis.

Sources:

Aaron DL, et al. "Four Common Types of Bursitis: Diagnosis and Management" J Am Acad Orthop Surg June 2011 ; 19:359-367.

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