The Burden of Bursitis

bursitis shoulder diagramHow doctors can help their patients manage this debilitating condition

Tennis superstar Maria Sharapova has suffered numerous injuries in her career, including recurring bursitis in her shoulder that caused her to withdraw from the 2013 U.S. Open. But professional and amateur athletes aren’t the only people at risk for bursitis. People of all ages and activity levels can develop bursitis and experience pain that affects everything from work to everyday activities.

What is bursitis?

Bursitis is a common condition that results when the bursae, the small sacs of fluid that cushion and protect the areas around the joints, become irritated and inflamed. It’s usually seen around joints pivotal to continuous motion, like the shoulders, elbows and hips, but it can appear in the knees and feet, too. Trauma to the joints like a fall can also trigger bursitis. The name bursae comes from the Latin word for bags, and there are over 150 bursae located throughout the body.

Bursitis can be very painful, causing the joints to feel stiff, achy, tender to the touch, and appear red and swollen, impairing normal function. Pain can come on gradually or appear suddenly.

People of all ages can experience bursitis, but there are factors that increase the risk of developing it. They include:

  • Daily work or activities that involve repetitive motion like construction, cleaning, and sports like running and weightlifting
  • Aging (especially after the age of 40)
  • Obesity
  • Systematic conditions like arthritis
  • Diagnosing bursitis

A doctor can diagnose bursitis by examining the affected area and may perform other screenings such as blood tests, X-rays or an MRI to rule out other factors like rheumatoid arthritis that could be causing the pain.

Treating bursitis

Short-term care for bursitis is focused on reducing pain and swelling. It includes:

  • Icing, resting, and elevating the affected joint area
  • Compression bandages, braces, and splints
  • Rehabilitation exercises for building strength and flexibility

Even after treatment, sudden and painful flare-ups can occur. Chronic bursitis can be treated with corticosteroid injections and surgery, but for long-term relief, it’s preferable to examine lifestyle and environmental factors that are contributing to the condition. A chiropractor who specializes in non-invasive care to restore healthy joint alignment can help patients proactively manage bursitis.

Managing bursitis

Bursitis is a condition that comes about through overuse. For that reason, a chiropractor will assess a patient’s posture, body alignment, flexibility, range of motion and the way they move and perform tasks. This helps them identify ways to reduce excessive friction to the affected areas. They can perform adjustments to help maintain healthy joint function, proper body alignment and avoid undue pressure on the joints. This helps to reduce pain and inflammation and enhances the function of the impacted joints and all the areas around them. They may recommend exercises for better posture and building strength and flexibility. A chiropractor may work in tandem with physical therapists or a primary care provider to treat patients with bursitis.

Doctors can scan patients’ feet to check for conditions like overpronation and plastic deformation which cause the body to become destabilized. They can restore healthy and natural alignment for proper joint function through Foot Levelers custom orthotics. Custom orthotics not only deliver comfort and support, they contribute to longer-lasting, more effective adjustments.

Reducing the risk of bursitis

In addition to providing chiropractic care, there are simple lifestyle strategies doctors may recommend for helping their patients avoid bursitis flare-ups or reduce their severity.

  • Stopping for frequent breaks and stretching can help break the cycle of continuous pressure on the joints. Before starting strenuous activities like running, it’s important to always warm up and stretch out the muscles for maximum flexibility, and always stretch out again after breaks.
  • Use both hands or tools like a wheelbarrow to lift and move heavy objects.
  • Alternate sports or activities regularly to avoid repetitive motion
  • Use pads or cushioning mats when resting joints on hard surfaces like a wood floor
  • Wearing custom orthotics every day to absorb shock and impact when running or walking on hard surfaces
  • Use custom orthopedic pillows to maintain healthy neck, shoulder, and spine position during sleep
  • Avoid staying sitting, kneeling or standing in the same position for long lengths of time
  • Maintain a healthy weight

Each year, at least 1 out of 10,000 people will develop bursitis on the knees or elbows alone.1 If you are experiencing the symptoms of bursitis or feel you may be at risk for developing it, visit a doctor for a thorough assessment and treatment plan.

Click here for more information on evaluation, treatment and rehabilitation of the shoulder.

1 NCBI Bookshelf


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