With winter right around the corner… comes bursitis season. In the coming months, many of us will slip on a patch of ice and get up with a swollen knee, hip or elbow, rendering any pressure on the area unbearable, and movement uncomfortable at least for a few days: lucky winners of an inflamed bursa.
WHAT IS IT?
Bursae are gel-like pockets found in high-friction areas to prevent tendon-on-bone and tendon-on-tendon rubbing, which otherwise would result in tendonitis.
Usually the result of a direct impact or created through continuous impingement or friction, bursitis can also, although rarely, have a viral cause. Have you ever fallen directly on your knee and/or elbow? Then most probably you’ve felt a localized swelling and tenderness, intolerance to direct pressure (impossible to lean or kneel) probably accompanied by painful joint movements: that was a minor bursitis.
The most common regions to develop bursitis are the knee cap (patellar bursa located on top of the knee cap), the hip (trochanteric bursa on the head of the femur), the elbow (olecranon bursa on the tip of the elbow), the shoulder (sub-acromial bursa between the deltoid and the shoulder bone) and mid arm (deltoid bursa).
WHAT TO DO?
If the inflammation is the result of an impact or strain after an unusually intense activity, then chances are it will subside gradually within a few days. Ice it frequently, avoid re-irritating the region and use over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication to speed up the process.
When it is a mechanical bursitis (meaning that the condition sets up gradually from repetitive movements or from an irritation due to poor posture) and also when the inflammation is situated in the heel, hip, shoulder and arm area, it can sometimes become very problematic because walking and everyday tasks/work provide continuous strain on the bursa and might impede the healing. If after 5 days you are still struggling with a high level of pain, are very irritable, if you cannot sleep at night and feel that the pain hasn’t diminished at all: it is important that you seek therapy in order to heal properly as bursitis can become quite incapacitating when left unattended.
HOW IS IT TREATED?
In physiotherapy, delinquent bursa inflammation is reduced by
· Anti-inflammatory and antalgic modalities
· Relieving the muscle tensions around the bursa in order to reduce the pressure on the inflamed region
· Postural rehabilitation to prevent furthermore impingement
· Adequate muscle and proprioceptive reconditioning
· An adapted exercise program to prevent relapse in the case of mechanical bursitis
If you feel concerned by this article, remember that postponing treatment often results in multiple complications from under usage of the joint: reduced range of motion, loss of strength, painful muscle tensions and reactionary pains on the uninjured side due to overcompensating while protecting the injured area.