Bursae (bur-SEE) are the small, fluid-filled sacs, that cushion the bones, tendons and muscles near your joints. Bursitis (bur-SY-tis) occurs when these bursae become inflamed.
The most common locations for bursitis are in the shoulder, elbow, hip and knee joints. But you can also have bursitis by your heel or the base of your big toe. Bursitis often occurs near your joints that perform frequent repetitive motion.
If you have bursitis, the affected joint might:
- Feel achy or stiff, even when not in motion.
- Hurt more (stinging or stitch) when you move it or press on it
- Look swollen, red or warm indicative of inflammation
You might need to consult your doctor immediately if your joint pain gets disabling on exercise or while exerting yourself, or you experience a sudden inability to move your joint, or there is excessive joint swelling, or you develop a fever.
Causes of Bursitis
Repetitive movements or positions over a joint that can put undue pressure on the bursae, may result in soft tissue trauma or strain causing bursitis. Examples include:
- Throwing a baseball or lifting something over your head repeatedly (shoulder-joint-bursitis)
- Leaning on your elbows for long periods (bursitis at elbow joint)
- Extensive kneeling for tasks such as laying carpet or scrubbing floors (knee-joint-bursitis commonly called the Housemaid’s knee) and (the “Jumper’s knee”) in activities such as dancing, running, or cycling.
Anyone can develop bursitis, but certain factors put you at greater risk:
- Age. Bursitis is a common occurrence above the age of 40.
- Occupations or hobbies. If your work or hobby requires repetitive motion of the joints surrounding the bursa, your risk multiplies. Examples include carpentry, housekeeping, carpet laying, tile setting, gardening, painting, playing cricket or golf, or playing a musical instrument. Standing or sitting for long hours in the wrong posture can also cause bursitis.
- Other medical conditions. Certain systemic diseases and conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout and diabetes, increase your risk of developing bursitis. Being overweight can increase your risk of developing hip and knee bursitis.
- Occasionally, an injury too can lead to bursitis.
Infection is a less common cause of bursitis.
Doctors can often diagnose bursitis based on medical history and physical examination. Testing, if needed, might include:
- Imaging tests. X-ray images can’t positively establish the diagnosis of bursitis, but they can help to exclude other causes of your discomfort. Ultrasound or MRI might be used if your bursitis can’t easily be diagnosed by a physical examination alone.
- Lab tests. Your doctor might order blood tests or an analysis of fluid from the inflamed bursa to pinpoint the cause of your joint inflammation and pain.
What can you do to feel comfortable in the situation?
A few steps can help immensely in addressing your bursitis.
- Rest and don’t overuse the affected area. This should allow time for natural healing.
- Ice packs on the inflamed joint can provide relief in pain and swelling for the first 48 hours after symptoms occur.
- Apply dry or moist heat, such as a heating pad or take a warm bath.
- Compressing the joint lightly with a bandage or a contraption is a must for support.
- Elevating the knee joint while resting helps in relieving swelling, pain and inflammation if that is the site of your bursitis. Cushion your knees if you sleep on your side by placing a small pillow between your legs also is comforting.
- Joint mobility needs to be restored through stretching and exercising once the initial inflammation has subsided. Mild exercises to strengthen the muscles without putting too much stress on the joint is helpful.
- Over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen can give pain relief and reduce inflammation in many cases though temporary. Some are available in a form you apply to the skin. Homoeopathic ointments like Arnica, Rhus tox and Ruta are beneficial.
In most cases, resting the affected joint and protecting it from further trauma is sufficient to relieve the discomfort. But recurrent flare-ups of bursitis are common. If the conservative measures don’t work for you, you might require:
- Medication. If the inflammation in your bursa is caused by an infection, your doctor might prescribe an antibiotic.
- Therapy. Physical therapy or exercises can strengthen the muscles in the affected area to ease pain and prevent a recurrence.
- Injections. A corticosteroid drug injected into the bursa can relieve pain and inflammation in your shoulder, hip or knee. This treatment generally works quickly and, in many cases, one injection is all you need.
- Assistive device. Temporary use of a walking cane or another device will help relieve pressure on the affected area.
- Surgery. Sometimes an inflamed bursa must be surgically drained, but only rarely is a surgical removal necessary.
How can you prevent Bursitis?
While not all types of bursitis can be prevented, you can reduce your risk and severity of flare-ups by changing the way you do certain tasks. Some of these may be occupation-specific. Others are more general which every individual can do to prevent the occurrence.
- Maintain your ideal weight. It is very important to NOT be overweight. Excess weight means more pressure on the joints, such as your knees. This predisposes one to bursitis.
- Avoid repetitive movements. If possible, try to avoid or at least minimize them.
- Muscle-strengthening exercises. Strengthening the muscles surrounding your joints is a very effective way to prevent bursitis.
- Warming up before exercise. This helps prevent any injury to the bursa.
- Frequent breaks. If you have no option but to perform a repetitive task, it is better to alternate the task with rest or other activities. This gives a breather to the muscles and tendons and prevents bursitis.
- Using cushioning pads. Use some type of padding to reduce the pressure on your knees/elbows if your job or hobby requires a lot of kneeling (knees) or leaning (elbows) over hard surfaces.
- Lifting properly. Bend your knees when you lift. Failing to do so puts extra stress on the bursae in your hips.
- Wheeling heavy loads. Carrying heavy loads puts stress on the bursae in your shoulders. Use a wheeled cart instead.
A few Most Effective Homoeopathic Remedies for Bursitis
The choice of Homoeopathic remedy for a patient with bursitis depends upon the individual symptoms and causation in each case. Homoeopathy tries to go deep and churn out the peculiar susceptibilities of an individual that predispose him/her to the condition.
Arnica – One of the best homoeopathic medicines for bursitis, when the causation can be traced back to an old injury, a fall or a strain. The affected area feels bruised and sore to the extent that the person tries to avoid even being touched.
Bryonia – When bursitis pain has a stitching or tearing quality and is worse from even the slightest movement, this remedy is a likely choice. The affected area is hot and swollen, feeling worse from warmth.
Rhus Toxicodendron – This remedy is helpful to those who experience stiffness and pain on initial movement, gradually improving as the motion continues – although too much movement can also aggravate the pain. They feel the worst during sleep and on waking in the morning.
Belladonna – Bursitis with a sensation of heat, throbbing, and intense discomfort caused by jarring and touch, suggests a need for this remedy. The area often is red and swollen, and the overlying skin feels hot.
Ferrum phosphoricum – Inflammation, especially in the right shoulder, with pain extending back and forth to the wrist or neck making one’s face go flushed. Gentle motion and cool applications often bring relief.
Ruta graveolens – If the bursitis is acute – with swelling, extreme stiffness, and pain, it’s time for Ruta. I’ve often used this remedy for bursitis after injuries.
Calcarea Phos – When there is stiffness in and around the surrounding joint tissue, Calcarea Phos is the one. The joint may even feel cold and numb. Cold or any change of weather aggravates the pain and stiffness. Going upstairs makes the patient feel weak and tired if the affected bursa is of the knee joint.
Kalmia latifolia – Pain that starts in a higher joint (especially the hip or shoulder), and shoots or travels downward, suggests a need for this remedy. Right shoulder bursitis extending to the elbow, wrist, or hand. Pain and inflammation may come on suddenly, and often shift around. Discomfort is worse from motion, at night, and has a neuralgic character.
Sanguinaria – This remedy is often indicated for bursitis in the shoulder, especially the right shoulder. Raising the arm is difficult, and pain can extend down the arm if the shoulder is moved. Discomfort may be worse at night in bed, from lying on the affected part, and also when turning over. A tendency toward allergies or migraines is often seen in people who need Sanguinaria.
Natrum Mur – When the knee joint feels weak, Natrum Mur is one of the best homoeopathic medicines for knee bursitis. The patient is usually thin and is fond of salt and salty things. He cannot tolerate heat in any form. Anaemia and oedema are also often present.
Silicea – Silicea is one of the best homoeopathic medicines for bursitis of the knee when warmth relieves the pain. The patient is unable to tolerate cold in any form. Even the calf muscles feel tense and contracted.
Sticta Pulmonaria – When frequent sitting, standing or squatting cause bursitis of the knee, Sticta is the remedy for knee bursitis with shooting pain There is redness, swelling and pain in the knee joint and the surrounding tissue.
The Art of individualization in the Science Of Homoeopathy rests over the symptoms, that the patient suffers from. I have found the above remedies extremely effective in healing my patients over the last 3 decades of my practice in Homoeopathy.
Do visit your Homoeopathic doctor if your Bursitis is nagging you, before going for local injections or a surgical procedure.