How to Deal With Elbow Bursitis Properly

elbow bursitis

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  • Elbow bursitis is caused by trauma, or a hard blow to the elbow. This causes the bursa to produce excess fluid, swell and become inflamed
  • You may develop a fever, signaling that the infection is beginning to spread throughout your body. If you notice any of these symptoms, visit a doctor right away

Your elbow bursa is located between the skin and the very tip of the pointy end at the back of your elbow called the olecranon. When this particular bursa becomes inflamed, it is known as olecranon bursitis.1

Normally, elbow bursitis is caused by trauma or a hard blow to the elbow. This causes the bursa to produce excess fluid, swell and become inflamed. The other common cause of elbow bursitis is constant pressure on the elbow for extended periods of time. Those who have jobs that place pressure on their elbows, such as plumbers, are more susceptible to this condition.2

In rarer cases though, a bacterial infection can cause bursitis, due to the close proximity of the bursa to the skin. This occurs when bacteria travel down the skin via a wound or cut and begin infecting the bursa. Certain medical conditions can cause bursitis as well, such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout.3

Symptoms of Elbow Bursitis

One of the first symptoms you’ll notice with elbow bursitis is swelling on the back of the elbow. Over time, this swelling continues to grow, causing pain that can worsen when direct pressure is applied. It may even become large enough to negate the movement of your elbow until it has been treated.4

A bursitis caused by bacterial infection will also have additional symptoms, aside from the typical swelling and pain. You’ll notice that the elbow may become red and warm. In addition, you may develop a fever, signaling that the infection is beginning to spread throughout your body. If you notice any of these symptoms, visit a doctor right away, as you most likely have septic bursitis.5

How Is Elbow Bursitis Treated?

The first phase of treating elbow bursitis is pain relief and protection. This means that resting and taking preventive measures from straining your elbow should be your top priorities once you have been diagnosed with elbow bursitis. Ice packs can help quicken the healing of the bursa. Simply apply an ice pack directly on the bursa for a few minutes, several times a day until the pain subsides.6

When going outside, you may want to purchase an elbow guard to prevent your bursa from hitting any solid surfaces. This will help cushion the force your elbow will absorb, should you ever come into contact with a wall unexpectedly.7 Unfortunately, there are some instances where the olecranon bursa needs to be removed via surgery. This decision is usually made if the inflammation becomes repetitive and all other options have been exhausted.

If the cause of inflammation is an infection, you will be admitted to a hospital for an inpatient procedure to monitor your condition after the operation. If the cause is noninfectious, the operation will be treated as an outpatient procedure, and you will be allowed to go home after having your bursa removed.8

Exercises You Can Try for Elbow Bursitis

Certain exercises are designed to help strengthen your elbow muscles and reduce the frequency of inflammation. Below are three exercises provided by Healthwise that you can try, but before you do them, make sure to consult with your doctor first for safety reasons.9

Elbow Flexion Stretch

1. Lift the arm that bothers you, and bend the elbow. Your palm should face toward you.

2. With your other hand, gently push on the back of your affected forearm. Press your hand toward your shoulder until you feel a stretch in the back of your upper arm.

3. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds.

4. Repeat two to four times.

Elbow Extension Stretch

1. Extend your affected arm in front of you with your palm facing away from you.

2. Bend back your wrist, pointing your hand up toward the ceiling.

3. With your other hand, gently bend your wrist farther until you feel a mild to moderate stretch in your forearm.

4. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds.

5. Repeat two to four times.

6. Repeat steps 1 through 5. But this time extend your affected arm in front of you with your palm facing up. Then bend back your wrist, pointing your hand toward the floor.

Pronation and Supination Stretch

1. Keep your affected elbow at your side, bent at about 90 degrees. Grasp a pen, pencil or stick, and wrap your hand around it. If you don't have something to hold on to, make a fist instead.

2. Slowly turn your forearm as far as you can back and forth in each direction. Your hand should face up and then down.

3. Hold each position for about six seconds.

4. Relax for up to 10 seconds between repetitions.

5. Repeat eight to 12 times.

MORE ABOUT BURSITIS

Bursitis: an Introduction

What Is Bursitis?

Bursitis Types

Hip Bursitis

Elbow Bursitis

Knee Bursitis

Shoulder Bursitis

Heel Bursitis

Septic Bursitis

Bursitis Causes

Bursitis Symptoms

Bursitis Treatment

Bursitis Prevention

Bursitis Diet

Bursitis FAQ

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