5 Home Treatment Tips for Bursitis

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  • After putting pressure on your elbows or knees for an extended time, you may experience soreness or swelling. These may be symptoms of bursitis, which occurs when a bursa that cushions your joints becomes inflamed. But you may not need a doctor’s help in healing the condition. Home treatment for bursitis is easier than you might think. In many cases, conservative treatment options at home will help you manage bursitis symptoms and aid in healing the condition.

  • 1
    Rest and Activity Modification
    Smiling Woman Kneeling in Garden

    Overuse of a joint is one of the most common bursitis causes. When that happens, resting the affected area is the first home treatment you can try. If your knees hurt while gardening, for example, or your elbow hurts while painting, this may mean you need to try another hobby for a while to rest those painful joints. If the overuse is due to work-related activities, such as installing carpet or plumbing, and it would be challenging to stop for a while, modifying the way you do your job may be your best option. Try good-quality kneeling pads or elbow pads to cushion and support your joints while working. You can make these modifications when you return to your hobbies as well, to prevent bursitis.

  • 2
    Pain Relievers

    To manage pain and reduce swelling that bursitis causes, try a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen. Other pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, may also help reduce pain, although they might not be effective against inflammation. NSAIDs can have adverse side effects, so be sure to read the label and pay attention to the amount you’re taking and for how long you use them. Take NSAIDs with milk or some food to protect the stomach. Elderly people need to be particularly careful because NSAIDs may interfere with other medications they are taking. Women who are pregnant should avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

  • 3
    Non-medicinal Bursitis Treatment
    woman icing shoulder

    If the affected bursa is near the surface of the skin, the area may swell and become red or tender to the touch. To manage these symptoms, there are several non-drug options that can be effective. One option is cold or heat therapy. Apply ice within the first two days after pain or swelling in the bursa begins. After that, heat is a better option. Other non-medicinal treatment methods are elevation and compression. Elevate the affected joint as much as possible, and use a compression wrap to reduce swelling.

  • 4
    Immobilization and Assistive Devices
    Man wearing knee brace

    To help you rest the joint and ease the pain, consider using a splint, brace or sling to partially—and temporarily—immobilize the affected area. Keeping the joint still will allow time for bursitis to heal. Depending on the location of the inflamed bursa, you can also use a cane to help you walk, particularly if the bursitis is in your knee or hip. Using elbow or knee pads during activities that put stress on your joints can help prevent bursitis from recurring.

  • 5
    Exercise and Lifestyle Changes

    If you visit a physical therapist for bursitis treatment, be sure to continue the prescribed exercises at home to help you maintain flexibility and range of motion in the affected joint while the condition heals. Protecting your bursae begins with an overall healthy lifestyle, such as exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. If you develop bursitis, you may need to make some lifestyle changes to help the condition resolve. Losing weight is a good way to reduce pressure on your bursae, and stretching before exercise helps prevent injury.

  • 6
    When to Visit a Doctor

    If you have tried home treatment for bursitis but the pain doesn’t go away, your doctor may recommend corticosteroid injections to manage bursitis symptoms. If your doctor suspects you have an infection, he or she may want to drain the fluid in the inflamed bursa and run diagnostic tests to determine whether the bursa is infected. If it is, your doctor will need to prescribe an antibiotic to fight the bacteria. Although uncommon, surgery is sometimes necessary to remove the bursa.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Dec 19
  1. Bursitis. Arthritis Foundation. https://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/bursitis/
  2. Bursitis. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bursitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20353242
  3. Bursitis. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10918-bursitis
  4. Bursitis. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/orthopaedic_disorders/bursitis_85,P00047
  5. Hip Bursitis. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/hip-bursitis
  6. Elbow (Olecranon) Bursitis. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/elbow-olecranon-bursitis/
  7. Morteza Khodaee, MD, MPH. Common Superficial Bursitis. American Family Physician. 2017 Feb 15;95(4):224-231. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2017/0215/p224.html
  8. Olecranon Bursitis Treatment & Management. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/327951-treatment

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