Bursitis treatment options include medical care and alternative, drug-free therapies.
What is Bursitis?
Bursae are fluid-filled pads that cushion the area around muscles, tendons, and bones, in proximity to the joints, and bursitis is a condition where there is inflammation of the bursae. Typical areas for 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 in joints that engage in repetitive motions.1 Aside from injury or repetitive actions, the risk also increases with age. Tendons can tear more easily and are not as elastic. When the bursa does its job properly, its lubricating fluid can decrease friction and irritation. When the joints are overused, bursitis is a possibility. Raking, shoveling, tennis, golf, pitching, painting and even gardening can trigger problems. If one has incorrect posture, or doesn’t stretch enough before exercises, this condition can occur. People with different leg lengths can add stress to a bursa. Medical conditions behind this issue include gout, psoriatic and rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid issues, or medication reactions. Even infection can lead to this condition. Pain is the main symptom, and it can be more severe if there is a buildup of calcium deposits. Adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder), where there is a loss of motion, can result from shoulder bursitis.2
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, but too many treatments in a month can lead to side effects and mask the underlying problem. Range-of-motion exercises, as well as splinting, are treatments that are included in physical therapy. 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, using a compression bandage is not recommended, as it could increase friction in the joint area. Antibiotics would be prescribed 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”. Trigger point therapy is often employed. 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. Avoiding caffeine and eating a healthy diet would be recommended. 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