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Naturally Treat Bursitis. Heres How...

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Learn about 8 natural treatments for bursitis. You may have heard about rest, ice, and trigger foods - but we have listed a few more here to consider.

Although often mistaken for arthritis, bursitis is a distinct condition. Arthritis is inflammation of the joint itself, and bursitis is the inflammation of the bursae, fluid-filled sacs located in areas of movement in the body.

Bursae are often located between tendons and bones or in the joints.

The bursae produce synovial fluid, a lubricating liquid that helps protect the joints and prevents soft tissues from rubbing against the bones. The principal bursae are located at the knee, hip, shoulder, and elbow, although bursitis can also occur in the hands, feet, and wrists.

When the bursae become inflamed, they can cause pain in the joints.

The pain often feels like stiffness or a mild ache that gets worse with movement. The area involved may feel swollen; it may even feel warm. Bursitis is often linked to strenuous exercise or repetitive motions, and it can affect people of any age. It may also be caused by bacteria or other health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Once an individual has experienced an episode of bursitis, it is more likely to flare up again.

The primary treatment for bursitis should include resting the affected area and applying ice to diminish the inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory drugs can be taken, but this type of medication can irritate the stomach. Steroid injections can help reduce inflammation at the joint site, but they also suppress the immune system, which can be an obstacle to healing. In more extreme cases, the bursae can be surgically drained or even removed.

Bursitis can be treated with natural remedies, but patients with the condition should monitor the pain and swelling. If the natural remedies for bursitis do not improve symptoms within a few days, an individual with bursitis may wish to be evaluated by a medical professional. As soon as symptoms appear, an individual with bursitis should see improvement by restricting the activity that may have caused it to flare up. The following natural remedies can help symptoms improve even faster.

Rest the Area

When dealing with bursitis, resting doesn't mean staying completely still.

Instead, patients with bursitis should refrain from doing the repetitive or strenuous motion that might have brought on the pain. Completely restricting movement in the joint could cause scar tissue to build up, permanently limiting the range of motion.

Keeping the joint moving gently can help symptoms improve. As soon as it's possible to move the joint without pain, patients may benefit from performing range-of-motion exercises to gently stretch the joint and keep it mobile. 

Strengthening the muscles that surround the joint can also help improve the condition. Along the same lines, changing the type of activity that may have led to bursitis can help patients manage the condition.

For example, if repeated kneeling while washing the floor causes knee pain, individuals with bursitis can try cleaning the floor with a long-handled mop instead. If the bursitis was caused by repetitive arm movements in the workplace, perhaps rotating through a variety of different activities will help prevent a flare in the future.

Ice and Heat

The first incidence of bursitis may be treated with applications of ice packs to the affected area. A patient can apply ice for 15 minutes on the site of swelling with 15 minutes off, repeating the pattern for an hour a few times per day.

After 24 to 48 hours, the pain and swelling should subside significantly. For smaller areas of pain, the patient can rub an ice cube over the affected location for a shorter time. 

If the pain continues past 48 hours, or if this is not the patient's first incidence of bursitis pain, the patient may find it beneficial to alternate ice with moist heat. The patient may apply ice for 15 minutes and then apply moist heat for an additional 15 minutes.

This pattern can continue for an hour and be repeated twice per day. Homemade heating pads can be made by dampening a disposable diaper with water and heating it in the microwave. Heating it at a low setting for a few seconds at a time can help prevent burning.

Alternatively, a sock can be filled with rice, dried garbanzo beans, or flaxseeds and warmed in the microwave for approximately one minute.

Remove Calcium Deposits

Calcium deposits can form after many years of experiencing bursitis. Creating a more acidic PH level in the body can naturally remove these calcium deposits gradually. A patient with bursitis can eat more acid-forming foods to raise PH (see table below). 

Acid Forming Foods
  • Blueberries
  • Olives
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Plums
  • Prunes

Drinking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar diluted with water daily can help dissolve calcium deposits in the body as well.

Grab the Citrus

Vitamin C is an antioxidant important for preventing injuries and assisting with recovery. Vitamin C can help repair connective tissue, and research shows that low vitamin C levels may be associated with the improper development of the bursae.

Pineapples also contain a substance that can help reduce the inflammation involved with bursitis. Bromelain, an enzyme found in the tropical fruit, helps diminish swelling. 

Head for the Kitchen

Patients with bursitis can raid the spice rack for herbs and spices that can help reduce inflammation. Turmeric can be combined with bromelain to help symptoms of bursitis.

A recommended dose is 375 milligrams three times per day for three months. White willow may be ingested by adults and should not be given to children under 18. The bark can be boiled into a tea by mixing one-half teaspoon of white willow with eight ounces of boiling water and letting it steep.

Boswellia is an herbal supplement that has anti-inflammatory properties. A 2003 study showed that patients with osteoarthritis who took boswellia had fewer incidences of swelling in their knees.

Although bursitis is different than osteoarthritis, both osteoarthritis and bursitis can cause joint swelling, which can be reduced with boswellia. Care should be taken when using herbs as a remedy for bursitis. People taking blood-thinning medications or who have certain blood disorders should talk to their healthcare provider before taking any herbs.

Nutrition can also play a role in treating bursitis naturally.

Eating oily fish or flaxseeds may help to reduce inflammation. Glucosamine may also help reduce swelling caused by bursitis.

Bone broths made from boiling beef or chicken bones for at least 12 hours contain dissolved glucosamine from tendons and cartilage and can be very healing.

Ginger is another natural anti-inflammatory. Adding ground or grated ginger to recipes or taking a ginger supplement can help with the swelling caused by bursitis. 

Dimethyl Sulfoxide

Dimethyl sulfoxide, or DMSO, is a natural substance derived from wood pulp.

DMSO is currently only approved by the Food and Drug Administration as an organ preservative in instances of transplant and for bladder disease. Although DMSO has not been studied as a remedy for bursitis, it has been used as a topical analgesic, with several clinical trials validating its effectiveness. DMSO can be applied to the painful area for rapid, temporary relief of pain and swelling.

Rubbing it on the site of bursitis can help improve its absorption and effectiveness. DMSO may feel warm to the touch when it is applied, but it has few side effects. 

Castor Oil

Castor oil is a folk remedy that has been said to help relieve the symptoms of bursitis. A castor-oil compress can be made by soaking pieces of fabric with the oil, then applying them to the affected area under a heating pad. This can be left on the skin for at least one hour.

The oily residue left on the skin can be massaged into the skin or cleaned off with soap and water. 


One of the best ways to deal with bursitis, especially when it comes to recurring flares, is to prevent it altogether. To help prevent bursitis in the shoulders, an individual should refrain from doing repetitive arm movements, such as vacuuming or reaching overhead for long periods.

Bursitis in the elbows can be prevented by avoiding clenching the fists or gripping writing instruments too tightly.

Avoiding repeated finger movements and leaning on the forearms instead of the elbows can help prevent bursitis. When kneeling for a long period, wear knee pads or rest on a cushioned surface.

Strengthening the muscles in the thighs and around the knees can help prevent bursitis flares, as can keeping the joints mobile. People with bursitis should wear supportive shoes to prevent the condition in the feet and ankles. Shoe inserts can help add extra cushioning and support.

When treating bursitis, individuals should monitor the swelling and pain.

If it does not improve within a few days of treatment, or if the person develops a fever, a health care provider should be contacted. By taking preventative measures, eating a nutritious diet, and turning to particular herbs or supplements if a flare occurs, people with bursitis can manage the condition so they can enjoy an active, healthy lifestyle.





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