Don't be too quick to label your joint pain as bursitis, especially if your condition doesn't improve after a few days of rest and home remedies or if the pain is interfering with your everyday activities or your sleep. There are many conditions for which joint pain is a symptom, but absolutely none for which pain and swelling should be ignored.
If self-care hasn't brought the pain and swelling under control, if either has gotten worse, or if you have lost any function in the joint, get to an orthopedist, sports-medicine physician, or other medical doctor experienced in treating problems in the affected joint.
Home Remedy Treatments for Bursitis
Sometimes, bursitis can flare up without a clue as to what has caused it. All you know is, it hurts. The good news is, once you tone down your activity, your symptoms should begin to disappear. Here are some home remedies to speed your recovery along:
Give it a rest. The pain of bursitis may disappear completely after a few days of resting the affected joint. This doesn't mean ceasing all movement. Particularly in a shoulder, immobilization could "freeze" the joint with adhesions (fibrous tissue) and scar tissue. Just take it easy and try to avoid the movement or activity that brought on the pain.
Get new shoes. If you have bursitis on your heel, you probably got it because of improperly fitting shoes. The solution is simple: Toss the shoes, and put on a better-fitting pair.
Make a change. Search for ways to adjust the activity or habit that sparked the pain to lessen the stress it puts on your joints. If crawling around in the garden or laying flooring has left you with bursitis of the knee, get yourself a low stool to sit on instead or buy a pair of sturdy, well-cushioned kneepads. If leaning on your elbows while reading has caused your elbows to swell and ache, use a book holder to prop up your reading material and take the weight off your arms.
Deflate the inflammation. Take two regular-strength aspirin or ibuprofen four times a day to reduce the swelling of the bursa; this will also help ease the pain. If you are taking blood pressure medicine or have kidney problems or a bleeding disorder, however, check with your doctor first. And avoid giving aspirin to children. Consult this list of precautions to take when using over-the-counter analgesics.
Skip the acetaminophen. Unlike aspirin and ibuprofen, this over-the-counter pain reliever isn't an anti-inflammatory, so it doesn't do as much to combat bursitis.
Put it on ice. Ice is a must when you're dealing with swelling. Ice brings down swelling by slowing blood flow to the area. Apply an ice pack to the joint for about 20 minutes (twice as long if your bursitis is deep in the joint) three or four times a day. Protect your skin by putting a towel or cloth between the ice pack and bare skin. Elevating the joint above your heart will also help reduce swelling.
Warm it up. After the initial swelling has been brought down (usually about three to four days), heat from a heating pad or heat pack will not only feel good but will get rid of excess fluid by increasing circulation.
Use a stepladder. Overhead reaching or pushing and pulling at or above shoulder level may worsen shoulder pain. If you can't reach something easily, use a stepladder, or better yet, have someone else get it for you.
Get in the swing of things. As soon as the pain has eased enough to allow it, you need to begin gently moving the affected joint through its full range of motion. A doctor or physical therapist can prescribe a set of exercises designed to do just that for your affected joint. For bursitis of the shoulder, for example, one effective exercise is the pendulum swing. To do this exercise, bend at the waist, and support your weight by leaning your good arm against a desk or chair back. Swing your sore arm back and forth and then in clockwise and counterclockwise circles.
Play "Itsy Bitsy Spider." Another gentle exercise you can do to restore your shoulder's range of motion is to crawl your hand up the wall, like a spider. Make it a laid-back spider, however. Anything other than slow, controlled movement within the joint's natural range of motion during the healing process may do more harm than good.
Most cases of bursitis clear up in a couple weeks if you stop aggravating the area, but you can do a few simple things to speed healing and make the process more comfortable. There are also some nutritional secrets that may help prevent future bursitis flare-ups. Read the next section to learn more.
For more information on conditions related to bursitis, and their treatment options, try the following links:
- To see all of our home remedies and the conditions they treat, go to our main Home Remedies page.
- Home Remedies for Osteoporosis discusses safe, practical ways to cope with osteoporosis.
- If you'd like to learn how to ward off joint pain, read How to Prevent Arthritis Pain.
- For remedies for the painful symptoms of arthritis, go to How to Relieve Arthritis Pain.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.