9 Self-Care Tips for People With Bursitis

  • man holding hip in pain as he gets up off couch
    Bursitis Treatment at Home
    Bursitis is the inflammation of a bursa, or small fluid-filled sac, in a joint. All our joints—hips, shoulders, elbows, knees, even heels—contain bursae, which help tendons glide over the bones of the joint. When a bursa becomes inflamed, the joint may swell and become red and warm to the touch. You’ll feel pain, which may be sharp, especially when you try to move the affected area.

    Many cases of bursitis improve with home treatment. Learn more about self-care tips for bursitis, including natural bursitis remedies.

  • Senior man resting in bed
    1. Rest your joint.
    Stop using your affected joint. If you try to ‘push through’ the pain of bursitis, you’ll only cause additional inflammation. If you have bursitis of the shoulder or elbow, use your other arm instead of the affected arm, at least until the pain subsides. If you have bursitis of the hip, knee or heel, you may need to minimize your weight-bearing activities (standing, walking, running) for a while. Whenever possible, rest with your leg elevated.

  • Close-up of Caucasian male on couch holding ice pack on knee
    2. Apply ice.
    Ice can decrease inflammation and pain. Apply ice to the affected area for 10 to 20 minutes a time, a few times per day. Ice is most effective when applied during the first 24 to 48 hours after an injury. So, try to ice the affected joint as soon as possible after noticing pain and inflammation. If you have chronic bursitis—that which persists over a period of weeks or months—ice isn’t as likely to be effective.

  • Medication Over The Counter
    3. Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication.
    Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen are over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They decrease inflammation and relieve pain. Taking these medications as directed on the package every few hours will help you feel more comfortable and minimize the underlying inflammation. NSAIDs can cause an upset stomach and ulcers in some people. If you have kidney or liver disease, a history of heart attack or stroke, or a gastrointestinal disease, talk with your doctor before taking an NSAID.

  • shirtless man wearing elbow compression sleeve for bursitis
    4. Consider compression.
    Occasionally, applying compression to the affected joint can minimize swelling and decrease pain. You can try wrapping the area with a compression bandage or slip on a compression sleeve. Be careful; compression should be firm but not tight. If you feel any numbness, tingling or increased pain, or notice swelling below the wrap or sleeve, remove it.

    You only use compression the first day or so after an injury. If you still have pain and swelling after three days, it’s time to see a healthcare provider.

  • Woman holding cane
    5. Get support.
    You’re going to need some help while you’re resting the affected joint. Let friends, family members and coworkers help you with everyday tasks. You might also want to use a cane, brace or splints, depending on the location and severity of your bursitis. If you have bursitis in the hip, you might find it useful to use a cane in your opposite hand; doing so can take some stress off the affected hip. A splint or brace might feel good on an affected knee or elbow (and remind you to rest the area).

  • sources of omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and fish oil pills
    6. Try glucosamine or omega-3 fatty acids.
    Glucosamine is a substance found in cartilage. Research has shown that over-the-counter glucosamine supplements may help inflammation in bursitis. Do not take glucosamine if you take a blood-thinning medication, as glucosamine can increase the risk of bleeding.

    Omega-3 fatty acids are found in oily fish and flaxseed; you can also find over-the-counter omega-3 supplements. Researchers are still studying omega-3 fatty acid effectiveness, but they seem to decrease the production of inflammatory chemicals in the body. If you take a blood thinner, do not take fish oil or omega-3 supplements without first talking to your doctor.

  • bromelain tablets next to slices of pineapple on black counter
    7. Ask your doctor about bromelain and herbal supplements.
    Bromelain is an enzyme that comes from pineapples and reduces inflammation. Do not take bromelain supplements without first talking to your healthcare provider. If taken with antibiotics—which are sometimes prescribed for bursitis caused by an infection—bromelain can increase the amount of antibiotic in the body to dangerous levels. It also increases the risk of bleeding. 

    Turmeric, boswellia, and white willow are three herbs that may reduce inflammation. However, all three increase the risk of bleeding. Do not take any over-the-counter supplements without first clearing them with your doctor.

  • Massage therapist giving back massage to client
    8. Be careful with massage therapy.
    Massage can feel good, and myofascial release therapy (a type of massage) may decrease the pain of a sore joint. However, do not massage the affected area if your bursitis is caused by an infection; you may inadvertently promote the spread of the infectious agent throughout the body.

    You might not know if an infection is the cause of your pain. When in doubt, skip massage. Instead, rest, ice and elevate the area; take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication. If those steps don’t lead to improvement in a few days, call your healthcare provider.

  • gettyimages 81714228
    9. Seek medical attention if...
    Most cases of bursitis can be managed at home. However, if you experience rapid worsening of pain, redness or swelling, or are suddenly unable to move your joint, seek immediate medical care. (You can call your regular healthcare provider or head to an urgent care clinic.)

    You should also call your healthcare provider if you still have significant pain after three weeks or so of rest and home treatment. At that point, medical treatment may be needed to relieve your symptoms.

Bursitis Treatment | 9 Self-Care Tips for Bursitis

About The Author

Jennifer L.W. Fink, RN, BSN is a Registered Nurse-turned-writer. She’s also the creator of BuildingBoys.net and co-creator/co-host of the podcast On Boys: Real Talk about Parenting, Teaching & Reaching Tomorrow’s Men.
  1. Bursitis. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/bursitis.html
  2. Should Bursitis. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/shoulder-bursitis
  3. Bursitis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/bursitis
  4. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medicines (NSAIDs). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/11086-non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory-medicines-nsaids
  5. Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. University of Michigan. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/tw4354spec
  6. Tendinitis (Bursitis). American College of Rheumatology. https://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Tendinitis-Bursitis
  7. Complementary and Alternative Medicine – Bursitis. St. Luke’s Hospital. https://www.stlukes-stl.com/health-content/medicine/33/000022.htm

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Aug 21
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