Call your doctor if the pain is disabling or persists for more than a few days; if your joint swells, is red, or is bruised; or if the pain is sharp, especially upon moving it.
If you have an infected bursa, you will need immediate medical care. Symptoms of an infected bursa include:
- warmth near the joint
- swelling and redness that spreads from the site
- feeling ill and tired
Stop any activity that causes pain or discomfort to the affected area until the bursitis subsides.
Take an anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, to reduce pain and swelling.
Press an ice pack over the affected area three or four times a day for 20 minutes at a time. This will help reduce pain and swelling. You can continue to ice the area for two or three days after you first begin to experience pain, or for as long as the joint area feels warm when touched.
Apply heat. After the affected area is no longer warm or red, you can apply heat to the joint to help reduce stiffness. Use a hot pack or heating pad or sit in a warm bath or whirlpool. If any swelling develops, however, use ice packs again.
Elevate the affected joint as much as possible, and try to keep pressure off the joint. To protect the joint until the swelling subsides, wrap it with an elastic bandage or wear a soft foam pad. For bursitis of the elbow, use a sling.
Your doctor is the best source of information on the drug treatment choices available to you.
Your doctor may recommend that you go to a physical therapist. The therapist may use deep-heat therapy (diathermy) or ultrasound to increase blood flow to the affected joint and promote tissue repair. Once the pain has gone away, you may also be given a set of exercises to do daily to stretch and strengthen your muscles and tendons and to help you recover your full range of motion.
Your doctor may also recommend massage therapy to stimulate circulation and relax surrounding muscles.
Surgery is reserved for chronic cases of bursitis that have not improved with standard therapy.
If you have an infected bursa, your doctor may recommend a surgical treatment known as incision and drainage (I and D). For this procedure, the surgeon will numb your skin with an anesthetic and then make a small incision to open the infected bursa and drain out the fluid.
In some chronic cases of bursitis, particularly when a bursa has become hardened and stiff with calcification, it is necessary to surgically remove the bursa entirely. The surgery can be done in an outpatient clinic, and recovery is usually rapid; most people return to their normal routine within seven to ten days.
Alternative therapies should only be used to complement conventional medical treatments. Always consult your physician first. Supplements and herbs can interfere with other medications you may be taking.
Bursitis usually responds well to treatment, but may develop into a chronic condition if the underlying cause of the condition is not corrected. Chronic bursitis can lead to a limited range of motion in the affected joint area.
If symptoms worsen, call your doctor.
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