Bursitis is an inflammation of a bursa, a small structure inside every joint that helps to lubricate and cushion it. Usually bursitis occurs in the larger joints, such as the shoulder, hip, knee, or elbow. It can happen once or can recur over time. Without seeing your health care provider, you usually can't easily tell the difference between bursitis and pain caused by a strain or arthritis.

Signs and Symptoms

What Causes It?

Typically the bursa becomes irritated or injured when the area is overused with repetitive motion or strenuous activity. It may also be caused by a bacterial infection. Certain other medical conditions, such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis, can also cause bursitis.

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office

Your health care provider will ask you to identify exactly where the joint hurts and feel the joint for swelling or particular areas of tenderness. Your health care provider may remove some fluid from the bursa with a small needle to check for signs of infection. You may also be given a blood test to check for other medical conditions.

Treatment Options

Sometimes simply resting and elevating the joint can help the area heal. A splint, sling, or other device can support the joint and keep it from moving. Applications of heat or cold may help relieve pain and swelling.

Drug Therapies

Surgical and Other Procedures
In rare instances, the bursa is surgically removed.

Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Alternative therapies may be useful in reducing the pain and inflammation of bursitis while supporting healthy connective tissue.

Include in your diet anti-inflammatory oils such as those found in cold-water fish, nuts, and seeds. The following supplements may help. Herbs
Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, it is important to work with your provider on getting your problem diagnosed before you start any treatment. Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. Tinctures may be used alone or in combination as noted. Homeopathy
Some of the most common remedies are listed below. Usually, the dose is 3 to 5 pellets of a 12X to 30C remedy every one to four hours. Acupuncture
Acupuncture can be helpful in reducing swelling and inflammation, and especially in relieving pain.

Although no well-designed trials have evaluated the effectiveness of chiropractic treatment for bursitis, chiropractors commonly treat people with this condition and report that some experience improvements in symptoms, including reduced pain and increased range of motion. Chiropractors are also likely to use other treatments in addition to spine and joint manipulation (such as ice massage and ultrasound therapy) for the treatment of bursitis

You should not use massage if your bursitis is caused by an infection. Otherwise, massage (especially myofascial release therapy) can be used for general relaxation and to reduce discomfort from inflammation and from compensating for a sore joint.

Following Up
Tell your health care provider if your symptoms are not relieved by your treatment. Be sure to follow your provider's instructions for resting the joint to allow the swelling to subside before returning to your usual routines. You can help prevent bursitis from recurring by avoiding repetitive motions, resting between periods of intense activity, and doing stretching exercises before starting an activity.

Special Considerations
Do not take aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen for more than a few days unless so directed by your provider. Be sure to tell your health care provider if you are pregnant.


Andreoli TE, Bennett JC, Carpenter CCJ. Cecil Essentials of Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders Co; 1993.

Barker LR, Burton JR, Zieve PD, eds. Principles of Ambulatory Medicine. 4th ed. Baltimore, Md: Williams & Wilkins; 1995:885-894.

Bursitis. NMIHI. Accessed at http://www.nmihi.com/b/bursitis.htm on October 13, 2018.

Bursitis. MedlinePlus. Accessed at https://medlineplus.gov/ on October 13, 2018.

Bursitis. Diagnosis and treatment. MFMER. Accessed at https://www.mayoclinic.org/ on October 13, 2018.

Carr AC, Frei B. Toward a new recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C based on antioxidant and health effects in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;69(6):1086-1107.

Corticosteroids. NMIHI. Accessed at http://drugs.nmihi.com/corticosteroids.htm on October 13, 2018.

Dambro MR, ed. Griffith's 5 Minute Clinical Consult. Baltimore, Md: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 1999.

Drug Results for Bursitis. WebMD. Accessed at https://www.webmd.com/ on October 13, 2018.

Gerber JM, Herrin SO. Conservative treatment of calcific trochanteric bursitis. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1994;17(4):250-252.

JAMA Patient Page. How much vitamin C do you need? JAMA. 1999;281(15):1460.

Johnston CS. Recommendations for vitamin C intake. JAMA. 1999;282(22):2118-2119.

Levine M, Rumsey SC, Daruwala R, Park JB, Wang Y. Criteria and recommendations for vitamin C intake. JAMA. 1999;281(15):1415-1453.

Minocycline. NMIHI. Accessed at http://www.nmihi.com/m/minocycline.html on October 13, 2018.

Murray MT. The Healing Power of Herbs: The Enlightened Person's Guide to the Wonders of Medicinal Plants. 2nd ed. Rocklin, Calif: Prima Publishing; 1998.

Naproxen. NMIHI. Accessed at http://www.nmihi.com/n/naproxen.html on October 13, 2018.

Stein JH, ed. Internal Medicine. 4th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby-Year Book; 1994:2400-2404.

What causes bursitis of the hip? American Academy of Family Physicians Accessed at https://familydoctor.org/ on October 13, 2018.