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Treat Bursitis With Rest and Medication

Bursitis is when the fluid-filled sacs – called bursa – between your bones, muscles and tendons become inflamed. It most commonly occurs in the shoulders, elbows and hips and can cause a great amount of pain. However, with proper treatment, it usually goes away within a few weeks.

Usually, bursitis is caused by repetitive motions that irritate the area, such as throwing a baseball, kneeling or leaning on your elbows for a long period of time or frequently lifting something over your head. Symptoms include:

  • joints that ache when you move or press on them
  • swollen or red joints
  • sharp or shooting pain, especially when you exercise
Brian C. Schafer, MD
Brian C. Schafer, MD

“The best way to determine whether you have bursitis is to see your doctor,” says Brian C. Schafer, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Saint Francis Medical Center. “He or she will ask about your symptoms and perform a physical examination. Sometimes, your doctor may order other tests – such as blood tests or X-rays – to rule out other reasons for your symptoms, such as arthritis or bone spurs.”

In most cases, treatment is very simple: You will need to rest, ice the area and take anti-inflammatory medications such as Advil® or Aleve®. If your pain continues, you may need to use injectable medications. “With this approach, we inject a corticosteroid into and around the inflamed area,” says Schafer. “Many patients have found great pain relief with injections.”

Another option is to see a physical therapist, who can teach you stretching and strengthening exercises that can lessen the pain.

When all other treatments have failed, surgery is an option. During the procedure, your doctor uses a needle to drain fluid from the swollen bursae or removes them completely. “Surgery is extremely rare,” says Schafer. “In most cases, medication can provide the necessary relief.”

To avoid bursitis, remember to stretch and warm up before exercising and cool down afterward.

For more information, call 573-331-3000.

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