What is Bursitis?
Bursae are fluid-filled pads that cushion the area around muscles, tendons, and bones, in proximity to the joints. Bursitis is a condition where there is inflammation of the bursae. Typical areas for the occurrence of this problem include the hip, elbow, shoulder and knee, as well as the heel and the base of the big toe. The pain is related to trauma that has developed in joints which regularly engage in repetitive motions.
Causes of Bursitis?
There are a number of repetitive motions and actions which could contribute to the onset of bursitis in different areas of the body.¹
Aside from injury or repetitive actions, the risk of developing this condition also increases as people get older. With advancing age, tendons can tear more easily and are not as elastic as they once were. When the bursa is doing its job properly, its lubricating fluid can decrease instances of friction and irritation. It is the inflammation which renders the bursa less or entirely ineffective, contributing to friction and further injury if the bursitis is left untreated. When the joints are overused and not properly cared for to compensate for the additional stress, the patient is left at an increased risk of bursitis. Raking, shoveling, tennis, golf, pitching, painting, and even gardening are just a few of the regular, repetitive activities which could trigger problems. If one consistently practices incorrect posture or does not stretch enough prior to exercise, these are more reasons why the condition can occur.
People who naturally have different leg lengths are more likely to experience added stress to a bursa. Medical conditions behind the onset of this issue include gout, psoriatic and rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid issues, or medication reactions. Even infection can lead to this condition.
Signs and Symptoms
Pain is the main symptom, and it can be more severe if there is a buildup of calcium deposits. Loss of mobility is likely as pain makes it difficult to perform certain motions. Adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder), where there is a loss of motion, can result from shoulder bursitis.²
Bursitis treatment options include medical care and alternative, drug-free therapies. Bursitis can be treated by resting the injury, avoiding the triggering activities, icing, and using anti-inflammatory and corticosteroid medications. Steroid injections can be repeated. However, too many treatments in a month can lead to side effects and mask the underlying problem. Physical therapy for this condition include treatments like range-of-motion exercises, as well as splinting. Rarely, surgery is an option.3 Bursectomy is a surgery that cuts out the bursa; weeks later a new bursa grows (without inflammation). In treating bursitis, specialists do not recommend using a compression bandage as it could increase friction in the joint area. Doctors would prescribe antibiotics if the condition was caused by an infection.4
Bursitis and flare-ups can be prevented by avoiding overuse of the joint, stretching, warming up, and cooling down when doing exercises, increasing muscle strength, taking breaks when needed, and cushioning the joints.5
Alternatives to medications and surgical care include bodywork (i.e., massage), chiropractic, homeopathy, nutritional therapy, yoga, and acupuncture. Massage will not cure this problem, but it can relieve pain and help the body heal itself. Massage therapy can “increase blood supply to the tissues”. Practitioners of alternative care often employ trigger point therapy. Herbs, such as arnica oil, turmeric, and willow, and homeopathic remedies, as well as nutritional supplements such as vitamin A and vitamin C, could also be helpful. Specialists recommend avoiding caffeine and eating a healthy diet. Yoga can improve posture, muscle strength, and breathing. Chiropractic care is particularly helpful for musculoskeletal disorders. Chiropractors can align the vertebra and unblock “nerve interference”. Chiropractic work to restore posture, reduce inflammation, and help prevent future issues.6