Bursitis is an inflammation of one of the body's bursae (the fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints). This painful condition can be caused by a mild injury, repeated use (such as prolonged kneeling on a hard surface), arthritis, or infection. Commonly affected joints are the shoulder, elbow, knee, and hip.

Chiropractic Medicine for Bursitis

Chiropractic medicine holds promise for most people with musculoskeletal disorders such as bursitis. Performing adjustments or manipulations with the hands, the chiropractor directs treatment not just toward the injured joint but toward the whole body, unblocking any nerve interference that may be caused by a misaligned vertebra. For example, some forms of bursitis may result from a misplacement of a cervical (neck) vertebra.

The treatment goals are to reduce inflammation in the joint, restore proper posture and movement, and bring the body back to its healthy state, preventing the bursitis from occurring again.

Only a trained practitioner is qualified to perform spinal manipulation. Chiropractors specialize in treating the spine and other joints. Osteopaths and naturopathic physicians may also employ these techniques, while physical therapists and massage therapists often incorporate elements such as trigger point therapy into their work. The treatment may also include an exercise and diet program.

Acupuncture for Bursitis

Acupuncture can relieve the pain of bursitis and restore function to the joint. But perhaps more important, this therapy can address the underlying imbalance in energy, or qi, that predisposed the person to bursitis in the first place.

In assessing a patient with bursitis, the acupuncturist looks beyond the symptoms to understand the health of the entire person. A complete physical is done (noting, among other things, the pulse and color of the tongue), and a history is taken. As needed, tiny needles are inserted in certain points on the body to replenish or disperse energy, bringing it back to its ideal level. These points can also be stimulated with needles and electrical current, as well as with pressure, heat, and cold. Chinese herbs are often added to an acupuncture treatment.

An acupuncturist, traditional Chinese physician, or naturopathic physician can perform acupuncture. For your first visit, be prepared to discuss in detail your bursitis symptoms, as well as your general health, diet, and lifestyle.

Bodywork for Bursitis

Several forms of bodywork can be helpful for people with bursitis. None of these therapies claims to cure the condition. Rather, each can ease pain and bring the body back to a healthier, prime state, allowing it to heal itself. For example, massage therapy can reduce the pain of bursitis and increase blood supply to the tissues. A Swedish massage treatment for bursitis may use rhythmic, flowing strokes that are directed toward the heart.

Several bodywork techniques hold promise for bursitis sufferers:

  • Applied kinesiology focuses on muscles to correct imbalances in the body's energy system (also involving diet and exercise regimens).
  • Feldenkrais Method uses specific movements to retrain the body to function at peak efficiency.
  • Reflexology applies pressure to certain reflex points on the feet and hands to help the body heal itself.
  • Rolfing involves the manipulation of the muscles and connective tissue to realign the body within the field of gravity.

A trained practitioner is needed to perform any of these bodywork therapies.

Other Bursitis Therapies

  • Herbal Medicine for Bursitis -- Arnica oil, comfrey, turmeric, and willow may be helpful.
  • Homeopathy for Bursitis -- Common remedies include bryonia alba and rhus toxicodendron.
  • Nutritional Therapy for Bursitis -- A poor, vitamin-deficient diet may predispose someone to bursitis. Among other things, increase intake of vitamins C and A, and avoid caffeine.
  • Osteopathy for Bursitis -- Treatment involves aligning the spine, mobilizing the joints, and correcting posture to help blood flow freely in the body.
  • Yoga for Bursitis -- This therapy can improve breathing, body posture, and muscle strength.

For more information on bursitis and alternative medicine, see: