Bursitis and Tendonitis
May be you’re starting to have trouble reaching high shelves. Or perhaps your tennis serve is getting a little stiff, or your elbows are feeling sore and creaky. When you can’t move as easily as you used to, there’s a good chance you have bursitis or tendonitis – conditions that can make your joints feel as stiff and rusty as the Tin Woodsman in the rain.
Bursitis occurs when one or more bursae – small, fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints – get irritated and inflamed. Tendonitis also causes joint pain. Unlike bursitis, however, the irritation and inflammation caused by tendonitis affect the tendons, those sinewy fibers that connect muscles to bones.
Although bursitis and tendonitis are different problems, it really doesn’t matter which you have, because the treatments recommended for both are virtually the same.
Do some quick first aid. When your joints first star aching, taking quick action will help prevent pain and swelling and speed your recovery time. Doctors recommend following a four point plan called RICE: it stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, and it’s the best way to quickly ease tendonitis and bursitis.
Resting your joints is the best way to help them recover. This is not the time to ignore the pain. Staying active when you’re having tendonitis or bursitis will make the joints get worse in a hurry. Try to avoid the repetitive motion behind your condition for awhile, especially.
Once you’re off your feet, it’s time to start the next step of the program: ice. When you first start having pain, put ice packs (or ice cubes wrapped in a towel) on the painful areas for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time. This will slow blood flow, which will help prevent swelling. After applying cold, wrap the painful area with bandage. Using compression will also help stop swelling, as well as reduce additional stress to the area.
Finally, you want to elevate the joint. If your shoulder is hurt, for example, sit up in bed for awhile. If it’s your knee, prop your leg up with pillows. Elevating the area makes it harder for fluids to flow into the injured joint, which will reduce swelling and help ease the pain.
With the RICE approach, you can expect bursitis to start getting better within a week or two. Tendonitis is a bit more tenacious, however, and it may be a month or more before you’re feeling entirely strong again.
Keep moving . Even thought you don’t want to put a lot of stress on already sore joints, it’s good idea to stay somewhat active even when your joints are aching. Keeping the joints and muscles moving will help them stay loose and limber. In addition, moving actually helps lubricate the joints, so that they move more easily. Doctors usually recommend taking several days to a week of complete rest – to give your “tennis” elbow a break, for example, or leaving your running shoes in the trunk of your car – until the worst of the pain is over. Then slowly begin resuming your normal activities, being careful not to push yourself too hard. Gradually moving your joints through their full range of motion will help speed healing as well as prevent problems in the future.
Try some soothing heat. After the initial pain has gone away and you’re starting to feel a little better, you may want to put some heat – hot, moist towels, heat packs, or simply a heating pad – on the sore joints. The heat will improve circulation and can be very soothing for aching joints. As with cold, apply heat for about twenty minutes at a time. You can repeat this every few hours, or as often as is necessary to relieve the pain.
Block the inflammation . A lot of the pain caused by bursitis and tendonitis is due to inflammation. To stop swelling fast, doctors usually recommend taking some aspirin or ibuprofen. These over the counter medications block the effects of chemicals in the body called prostaglandins that cause both pain and inflammation.