Bursae are small sacs of fluid that form around your joints and provide cushioning that reduces friction between bones and tendons. When one of these sacs becomes swollen and inflamed (often due to repetitive movements or to a sudden injury), the resulting condition is called bursitis. It typically develops in the knee, hip, shoulder or elbow, and the pain can be intense. Thankfully, there are some effective and easy home remedies that are capable of making a huge to the major symptoms, speeding up your recovery. Here are ten of the best.
1. Adapt your sleeping habits
Firstly, make sure you don’t adopt a sleeping position that puts pressure on the area affected by bursitis. So, if you have bursitis of the right hip, sleep on your left hip while the injury is healing. In addition, consider raising the area when you’re at rest, as body parts elevated above heart level show marked decreases in inflammation. To return to the right hip example, you can place a pillow between your knees to stabilize your pelvis and raise the sore hip. Similarly, you can place a foot or elbow with bursitis onto a soft pillow during the night.
2. Apply DMSO
Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) is a clear liquid with an oily texture, and it can work as a topical treatment for bursitis because it cuts down inflammation and swelling (reducing pain as a result). Using a liquid version is the best option, as gel and cream DMSO treatments can lead to skin inflammation. All you need to do is mix 1tsp of water with 2tsp of DMSO, and then rub a little onto the area of the bursitis a few times a day. However, you should avoid this particular home remedy if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, suffering from diabetes or dealing with problems that damage the liver or kidneys. It is also safer to get DMSO on prescription, as some non-prescription forms of DMSO can contain dangerous impurities.
3. Wear padding and use mobility aids
If you pad the joint with bursitis, you can dramatically reduce your chances of worsening the injury. Knee and elbow pads are particularly useful, and they don’t interfere too much with normal functionality. Meanwhile, you can further reduce pressure on some sites of bursitis by using a cane when walking.
4. Consider acid-forming treatments
Some alternative health practitioners note that people with chronic bursitis (i.e. bursitis that lasts for months or years at a time) may have calcium deposits that can be treated by changing your bodily pH level. In particular, acidic foods can be helpful, with the easiest solution being a daily tablespoon of apple cider vinegar dissolved in a glass of water.
Although this is probably the most obvious home treatment for bursitis, the importance of rest cannot be overstated. Don’t be tempted to return to your usual workout routine or favorite sports too soon, and don’t feel guilty about spending plenty of time on the sofa! Studies show that those with bursitis in lower body parts (like the knees or ankles) delay recovery if they spend a lot of time standing, especially if they do so on hard surfaces. However, don’t stop moving altogether—immobilizing the affected area reduces strength and may be linked with the formation of additional scar tissue.
6. Increase your vitamin C consumption
Whether you want to drink a glass of orange juice a day, make a smoothie containing papaya, or create a pasta dish with bell peppers and broccoli, you’ll be helping yourself recover from bursitis if you ensure a high intake of vitamin C. As an antioxidant, it is extremely useful when your body is repairing damaged tissue after an injury. In addition, note that the protective bursa (where your bursitis has developed) can degrade or fail to form properly if you are deficient in vitamin C.
7. Use ice at first
Placing an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables (wrapped in a cloth or towel) over the affected area can help to bring down the inflammation associated with bursitis. Cold is also effective at numbing pain. You can apply an ice treatment for 15-20 minutes every 4 or 5 hours.
8. Use heat later
While ice works best in the first few days after you develop bursitis, it is smart to move on to heat treatments when the swelling starts to go down. Using a heating pad or patch can really soothe the ache, and it also boosts your circulation (helping to get rid of some of the excess fluid that’s hanging around the injured area).
9. Stock up on pineapple
As well as being delicious, pineapples are a source of an enzyme called bromelain, which is proven to reduce inflammation. Studies on sports injuries in particular (such as muscle strains and bursitis) show that consuming pineapple chunks or juice leads to less swelling.
10. Try acupuncture
Finally, an acupuncture session—in which very fine needles are carefully inserted into key areas of the body—may help to treat the pain caused by bursitis. Even if you are sceptic, consider making an appointment. Unless you having a bleeding disorder or are on blood-thinning medications like warfarin, you have nothing to lose!
If your bursitis is severe, it may help to have the fluid aspirated from the affected joint (i.e. removed with a needle), or to receive steroid injections that reduce inflammation. You should also be aware of the possibility of septic bursitis, which typically needs antibiotic treatment and may present with broken skin and a very high fever. Never self-diagnose bursitis, and always follow the recommendations of your doctor.