What is Bursitis?

What is bursitis? It's a condition that occurs most often in a person’s hips, knees, elbows, or shoulders. The painful condition occurs most often near the joints. Your body contains, small sacs filled with fluid that are called “bursae.”

The bursae act as cushions for the areas around your joints, primarily your:

  • Bones
  • Muscles
  • Tendons

Bursitis occurs when the fluid-filled sacs become inflamed.

What Causes Bursitis?

Bursitis is a condition that can have multiple causes, but the main cause is typically repetitive motion. When you move into the same positions or perform the same actions, you’ll be putting repeat stress on the bursae that surround the joint.

what is bursitis symptoms causes natural remedies man holding elbow in pain wearing blue striped shirt

You can develop this condition through a variety of activities, including:

  • Overhead lifting
  • Basketball, football, etc.
  • Kneeling tasks

Cleaning professionals that spend time on their knees often may inflame their joints because they’re forced to remain in the same position for long periods of time. You can also suffer from this condition if you suffer from an injury or trauma to the area where the inflammation occurs.

Gout, infection, or different forms of arthritis that cause swelling to the joints can also irritate the bursae and cause them to inflame.

Annually, 1 in 10,000 people will develop bursitis in their elbows or knees, and 33% of these cases are bacterial infection-related. Men have a higher risk of the condition, with middle-aged men being the ones most often affected by bursitis.

The two main factors resulting in bursitis are:

  1. Irritation. Excess irritation to the bursa can cause irritation, inflammation, and then pain. A good example of this is someone that spends a lot of time leaning on their elbows. For example, if you spend a lot of time in the plank position, this may lead to elbow bursitis.
  2. Friction. The bursa can suffer from excess friction, which can result from tissues or bands that are too tight rubbing against the fluid-filled sacs near the joints. This is very common in knee bursitis where the IT band starts to rub on the knee bursa because it’s too tight.

Medical conditions that cause inflammation can also lead to episodes of bursitis.

If you think that you may be suffering from bursitis, it’s important to know what the most common symptoms are so that you can identify the condition. A doctor can also help diagnose the problem if the natural treatment options are not working.

Bursitis Symptoms

Sudden bursitis is caused by injuries, so you’ll start to feel bursitis symptoms right away following the injury. Otherwise, if no injury has occurred, your symptoms will develop gradually over the course of several days or weeks.

The bursitis symptoms that you’ll experience will vary depending on the severity and underlying cause of the condition and may be one or a combination of the following:

  • Pain. The pain will originate from the bursa in the impacted area and may be caused by inflammation or irritation of the soft tissue nearby.
  • Redness and/or warmth. Irritation and inflammation can cause the area of the skin to turn red and warm. These two symptoms, while common in bursitis, can also be caused by infection, which will require immediate medical attention.
  • Stiffness. Joints may become difficult to straighten or bend because of the stiffness that occurs with bursitis.
  • Tenderness. If the skin that’s over the bursa starts to press on the bursa, it will cause the bursa to become tender. Swelling can cause this form of pressing to occur.
  • Swelling. A common side effect involves swelling, which occurs in the bursa as it fills with fluid.

You may not notice that the bursa is swollen, depending on its location in the body. If the bursa is close to the skin or directly underneath it, you’ll likely notice the swelling. Knee bursitis will often result in the front of the knee swelling, and elbow bursitis will cause the tip of the elbow to become swollen.

If you have hip or shoulder bursitis, multiple soft tissue layers are on top of the bursa hiding the warmth, redness, and swelling from being visible or experienced.

Septic Bursitis

If the bursae are infected, this can cause septic bursitis to form. The symptoms of this severe condition can include warmth, redness, bumps, or sores, but there are likely to be more severe symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever

You'll likely feel sick and should seek medical attention immediately. Antibiotics will be required to help treat septic bursitis.

Traditional Treatment and Natural Remedies for Bursitis

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If you have non-septic bursitis, the treatment options include resting, taking NSAIDs, applying a cold compress, physical therapy, cortisone injections, aspirin, or orthotics. Treatment will depend on the root cause of your bursitis.

There are natural remedies that may help with symptoms of Bursitis including: 

  • CBD A 2016 study found that transdermal cannabidiol (CBD) can reduce joint swelling and pain. Multiple studies have also found that CBD is effective at reducing swelling and pain associated with arthritis.
  • DMSO Another 2016 study on DMSO found that DMSO was able to repress the body’s natural inflammatory process caused by excess cytokine production. 
  • Stretching -  If the bursa is caused by tight muscles or tendons, creating a stretching routine can help alleviate the friction and irritation. You may need to work with a physical therapist to learn the right stretches to correct the condition.
  • Turmeric Adding turmeric to your food or taking a turmeric supplement is a proven method to reduce swelling. The curcumin in turmeric acts as an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. 

There is some evidence that a variety of herbs can also help alleviate the pain and swelling caused by arthritis. A few of the herbs that may be able to help reduce your symptoms include Boswellia or frankincense, devil’s claw, ginkgo, and stinging nettle.

Bursitis can progress into a chronic condition, so if you notice the symptoms of bursitis occur after performing a specific activity, be sure to stop the activity. If the activity is work-related you may need to adjust the way that you perform certain movements to stop bursitis and its symptoms.

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