How to Treat Bursitis

Four Parts:Understanding BursitisTreating Bursitis with Remedies at HomeTreating Bursitis with Professional HelpPreventing Bursitis

Bursitis is a medical condition that can lead to severe pain, swelling, or stiffness in the areas surrounding your joints. Therefore, bursitis often affects areas of your body such as your knees, shoulders, elbows, big toes, heels, and hips. How to treat bursitis depends on the severity, causes, and symptoms, but you have a number of options available to you, both at home and at your doctor's.

Part 1
Understanding Bursitis

  1. Image titled Treat Bursitis Step 1
    Understand what causes bursitis. Bursitis is when a bursa sac becomes enlarged and inflamed. A bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac that provides cushioning for your body near your joints.[1] That is, it provides padding as your bones, skin, and tissues connect and move with your joints.[2]
  2. Image titled Treat Bursitis Step 2
    Look for swelling. Symptoms of bursitis include swelling at the site, as well as pain. The area may also be red or have stiffness. If you have these symptoms, you should see your doctor.[3]
  3. Image titled Treat Bursitis Step 3
    Know how it's diagnosed. Your doctor will use questions and a physical exam to diagnose the condition. She may also order an MRI or an X-ray. [4]
  4. Image titled Treat Bursitis Step 4
    Understand what causes bursitis. Bursitis is most often caused by repeated motions in the same joint or by lightly hitting the same area over time. For instance, activities such as gardening, painting, playing tennis, or playing golf can all lead to bursitis if you are not careful.[5] Other causes of bursitis are infection, trauma or injury, arthritis, or gout.

Part 2
Treating Bursitis with Remedies at Home

  1. Image titled Treat Bursitis Step 5
    Use the PRICEM treatment. "PRICEM" stands for "protect," "rest," "ice," "compress," "elevate," and "medicate."[6]
    • Provide protection by padding the joint, especially if it's in the lower half of your body. For instance, wear knee pads if your bursitis is in your knees, and you need to continue kneeling.[7]
    • Give your joint as much of a break as possible by staying off of it. For instance, try different exercises that don't hurt the area near the joint that is inflamed.[8]
    • Use ice packs wrapped in a cloth. You can also use frozen vegetables such as peas. Ice the area for 20 minutes at a time, and you can use this method up to 4 times a day.[9]
    • You can wrap the joint in an elastic bandage to provide support. Also, be sure to raise the area above your heart as often as possible. Otherwise, blood and fluid may collect in the area.[10]
    • Use anti-inflammatory pain pills, such as ibuprofen, which can help decrease the swelling and pain.[11]
  2. Image titled Treat Bursitis Step 6
    Use warm compresses for pain that last longer than 2 days. Apply heat to the area for up to 20 minutes four times a day.[12]
    • You can use a hot pad or a hot water bottle. If you don't have either of those, dampen a washcloth, and place it in the microwave. Heat for 30 seconds or so to warm it, making sure it's not too hot.[13]
  3. Image titled Treat Bursitis Step 7
    Try a cane, crutches wheelchair or any other type of walker for bursitis in your legs. Though you may not like using a cane or walker, you may need one while you recover. These devices help take some of the weight off the bursa area, allowing it to heal faster, as well as reducing your pain.[14]
  4. Image titled Treat Bursitis Step 8
    Try a splint or brace. Splints and braces provide support to injured areas. In the case of bursitis, they can provide some much-needed relief for your joint areas, leading to quicker healing.[15]
    • However, only use braces or splints for the initial burst of pain. If you use them too long, it decreases strength in that joint. Talk to your doctor about how long you should wear one.[16]

Part 3
Treating Bursitis with Professional Help

  1. Image titled Treat Bursitis Step 9
    Ask your doctor about corticosteroid injections. This type of injection is one of the main medical treatments for bursitis. Essentially, your doctor will use a needle to inject cortisone into the joint.[17]
    • If you're worried about the pain, most doctors use an anesthetic first to numb the area. He or she may also use an ultrasound to help guide the needle to the right place.[18]
    • These injections should help both the inflammation and the pain, though it may become worse before it gets better.[19]
  2. Image titled Treat Bursitis Step 10
    Take antibiotics. Sometimes, the inflammation is caused by an infection. A round of antibiotics can help your body fight off the infection, reducing the inflammation and the bursitis.[20] If the bursa is infected, your doctor may drain the infected fluid first with a needle.
  3. Image titled Treat Bursitis Step 11
    Pursue physical therapy. Physical therapy may be a good option for you, especially if you have frequent flare-ups. A physical therapist can show you how to best exercise to improve your range of motion and pain level, as well as how to help prevent the problem in the future.[21]
  4. Image titled Treat Bursitis Step 12
    Try swimming, or get in a hot tub. Water can help you move the joint easier without as much pain, so that you can slowly regain motion.[22] However, be gentle in your swimming. Swimming can lead to bursitis in the shoulder, so keep the intensity down. Focus on recovering motion and lessening pain not on an intense workout.
    • Another option is water physical therapy, which allows you to improve your pain under the direction of a professional.[23]
  5. Image titled Treat Bursitis Step 13
    Use surgery as a last option. A surgeon can surgically remove the bursa if it becomes a severe problem, but this treatment is usually the last one a doctor will recommend.[24]

Part 4
Preventing Bursitis

  1. Image titled Treat Bursitis Step 14
    Avoid repeated motions in the same area. That is, bursitis is often caused by you using the same joint to do the same movement over and over, such as doing too many push-ups or even something as small as typing for too long.[25]
  2. Image titled Treat Bursitis Step 15
    Take breaks. If you do have to do an action for a long period of time, be sure to rest from time to time. For instance, if you have been writing or typing for a long period of time, take a few minutes to stretch your hands and arms.[26]
  3. Image titled Treat Bursitis Step 16
    Always warm up. A physical therapist can help you with exercises and stretches for your specific needs. Before you exercise, take the time to do some stretches and some light movements to warm up your body.[27]
    • For instance, start with something simple like doing jumping jacks[28] or jogging in place.[29]
    • You can also try stretches such as high knee pulls, where you lift your arms up in the air. Pull them back down as you pull one knee up. Alternate knees.[30]
    • Another easy warm up is high kicks, which is exactly how it sounds; kick one leg high in the air in front of you. Switch back and forth between legs.[31]
  4. Image titled Treat Bursitis Step 17
    Build up your tolerance. When you first start a new exercise or weight-lifting routine, take time to build up stamina. You don't want to jump into doing a hundred repetitions your first time out. Start small, and build up each day.[32]
    • For instance, the first day you do push-ups, maybe you want to just try doing ten or so. The next day, add one more. Keeping adding one everyday until you reach a level you are comfortable with.
  5. Image titled Treat Bursitis Step 18
    Stop if you have sharp pain. You should expect some strain on your muscles if you're lifting weights or starting a new exercise. However, you should stop if you feel any sharp or severe pain, which can indicate a problem.[33]
  6. Image titled Treat Bursitis Step 19
    Practice good posture. Sit and stand up straight when you can. Pull your shoulders back. If you notice yourself slouching, correct your posture. Bad posture can lead to bursitis, especially in your shoulders.[34]
    • When you are standing, place your feet evenly, about shoulder-width apart. Keep your shoulders back. Don't tense up. Keep your gut in. Your arms should hang freely.[35]
    • When you are sitting, your knees should be in line with your hips. Keep your feet flat. Don't tense up your shoulders, but do roll them back. Make sure your back is supported by the chair. If it isn't, you may need to add a small pillow near the base of your back. Imagine a string down your spine, pulling your head up as you sit.[36]
  7. Image titled Treat Bursitis Step 20
    Correct leg length differences. If one of your legs is longer than the other, that can lead to bursitis in one of your joints.[37] Use a shoe lift for the shorter leg to correct the problem.[38]
    • An orthopedic doctor can help you get the right type of lift. Essentially, a heel or shoe lift is incorporated into the bottom of the shoe. It lengthens that leg a bit, since it provides added height.[39]
  8. Image titled Treat Bursitis Step 21
    Use padding whenever possible. That is, when you're sitting, make sure you have a cushion under you. When you're kneeling, have a knee pad under you. Pick good shoes that offer proper support and padding, such as high quality walking sneakers.[40]


  • See your doctor immediately if you have a fever, or if the bursa area becomes more red, warm, swollen or painful than before. These are signs of a possible infection.

Sources and Citations


Show more... (37)

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Feet Knees and Legs