What is Bursitis Physical Therapy?

Bursitis physical therapy is important to help speed up recovery from an inflamed bursa. The exact techniques involved in bursitis physical therapy depend on the location of the injury, but the general principles are the same. A healthcare professional will often aim to reduce inflammation with ice packs, ultrasound, and certain drugs. Stretching and strengthening of the surrounding muscles are also major elements of physical therapy for bursitis.

The primary aim of bursitis physical therapy is to reduce inflammation. Regardless of where the injury has occurred — whether it’s the knee, hip, or elbow — the pain is the result of inflamed tissue. When the bursa is aggravated it causes extra inflammation, thereby creating a vicious cycle. A physical therapist may apply ice packs to the area and will often advise the patient to do this at home for the first few days. Ultrasound treatment is also sometimes used for the same purpose.

Stretching is often an important part of bursitis physical therapy. Loosening the muscles surrounding a bursa can reduce pressure and inflammation. It’s important that the stretches don’t cause pain and are performed correctly, however, otherwise the patient may suffer additional inflammation or even a new injury. The stretches that a physical therapist recommends will depend on the location of the inflamed bursa and the flexibility of the patient.

Strengthening exercises are also commonly performed to reduce pressure on an inflamed bursa. In most cases, strengthening exercises will not be started until the initial inflammation has subsided, but are important for preventing the injury from recurring. If a muscle is stronger, it is more able to support the body’s surrounding structures which is essential for preventing overuse injuries.

Exercises are not always enough to heal an inflamed bursa. In this case, a cortisone injection may be administered during bursitis physical therapy because this is a strong anti-inflammatory drug. There are, however, potential side effects to a cortisone injection including weakening of the surrounding tissue. For this reason, conservative treatments are usually attempted first.

Along with bursitis physical therapy, it’s important that the patient rests the injured area as much as possible. Any movement that aggravates the condition will increase recovery time. Preventing pain completely can be difficult, especially when moving the area is required for everyday activities, but increased inflammation should be avoided as much as possible. Reducing inflammation by taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can also help to speed up the process.


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