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What are the Most Common Treatments for Bursitis Pain?

By Alex Terris
Updated May 17, 2024
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Some of the most common treatments for bursitis pain include rest and icing the affected area. Painkillers are useful for reducing pain, although they don't address the underlying cause. For this reason, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are more effective at reducing bursitis pain as they help to reduce inflammation. If NSAIDs fail to improve the condition, a cortisone injection, which has strong anti-inflammatory properties, may be required. Stretching and strengthening exercises can help to reduce the pressure on the bursa, but can also make it more inflamed if performed before the inflammation has subsided.

To begin with, bursitis pain should be treated with a period of rest. This doesn’t have to be a total hiatus from all activities, but the patient should avoid anything that causes pain. During this phase of treatment, it may be beneficial for the patient to ice the injured area or to use a compression bandage. Ice should be applied for no longer than 20 minutes at a time and shouldn’t be placed directly onto the skin. The goal of these treatments is to reduce inflammation in the bursa and allow it to heal naturally.

Bursitis pain can also be treated by taking painkilling medicine. Painkillers such as paracetamol can be effective at quickly reducing pain without many noticeable side effects. A patient may also be advised to take NSAIDs because these can lower pain levels and reduce inflammation. It is important that NSAIDs be only taken for a short period of time, however, as the drugs can cause additional unwanted side effects such as stomach pain and ulcers.

Depending on how inflamed the bursa is, conservative treatments such as rest, ice, and compression may be enough to solve the problem. If, however, bursitis pain doesn’t diminish with these treatments, a cortisone injection may be contemplated. Cortisone is a steroid which can dramatically reduce inflammation when directly injected into a bursa. It is a strong drug, however, which is why it is generally only considered as a last resort.

In some cases, stretching and strengthening exercises may help to reduce bursitis pain. The idea is to reduce the tension of surrounding muscles, which can, in turn, minimize pressure on the bursa and allow the inflammation to subside. Exercises can make the condition worse, however, if they are performed too soon or incorrectly. For this reason, bursitis exercises are usually recommended as a preventative measure rather than a cure.

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