Natural Health Journals

Understanding Bursitis

By Cyndra Neal

Bursitis is an inflammation of the bursa, a small fluid-filled sac that works to reduce friction between the tissues of the body. When functioning normally, the bursa slips and glides smoothly, but when it becomes irritated and inflammation sets in, every movement is painful.

Bursitis usually develops because of repetitive motion in a particular area, but it can also develop because of an injury, or due to advancing age. If you tend to overuse a particular joint, or if you do not stretch properly before exercising, then you are at a greater risk of developing bursitis.

Symptoms of Bursitis

Normally, the only symptom of bursitis is pain. It may build up gradually, or symptoms may suddenly appear without any prior warning. When more severe pain is present, it is usually an indicator that calcium deposits exist and are making the problem worse.

Bursitis routinely affects different parts of the body, including:

  • Achilles tendon
  • Knees
  • Elbows
  • Shoulders
  • Hips

Treatment Options

The treatment options for bursitis are relatively simple and basic. The most commonly prescribed treatments include:

  • Ice (to reduce swelling of the inflamed area)
  • Resting the affected area
  • Taking anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen or naproxen)

Often times, steroid injections are used by physicians to reduce inflammation. Steroid injections are an excellent treatment for bursitis because they act quickly, often relieving pain in a matter of hours. The only drawback to the use of steroid injections (or cortisone), is that they can only be administered once every four months. It is not safe to use steroids any more often than that.

In addition, physical therapy is often recommended for patients with bursitis. Exercises that focus on improving range of motion and that help to build strength in muscles are the most beneficial to people who suffer from this condition.

In some cases, an infection of the bursa may be present. When this happens, doctors will prescribe a course of antibiotics for patients. Fortunately, bursitis flare-ups rarely result in the development of an infection. If an infection is present, however, patients will experience fever, redness around the inflamed area, or open wounds around the site of the inflammation.

Preventing Bursitis

It is not possible to prevent all of the different types of bursitis, but there are some basic steps you can take that will help to reduce the severity of flare-ups, and that may also help to reduce the number of instances of bursitis that you experience over time.

  1. Lift properly – always bend your knees when you are lifting. If you do not, you will put extra pressure on your hips.
  2. Take regular breaks – regardless of the activity, make sure you rest on a regular basis so that you do not put excess strain on your joints.
  3. Walk around frequently – try not to sit in any one position for too long, especially on hard surfaces, because it puts a lot of pressure on the bursa in your hips.
  4. Use padding on your knees – if you are on your knees a lot because of your job or a favorite hobby, you need to keep them properly padded to reduce the amount of direct pressure.

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