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What is Bursitis?

Bursitis is an inflammation, which may be acute or chronic, of a bursa and is usually caused by a direct injury or excessive friction. Bursae (pl) are flattened, fibrous, protective sacs lined with synovial membrane and containing a thin film of synovial fluid. They are common in sites where ligaments, muscles, skin, or muscle tendons overlie and rub against bone.

Bursitis may manifest as frozen shoulder, tennis elbow or water on the knee.

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What causes Bursitis?

Falling on one's knee may result in a painful bursitis of the prepatellar bursa, known as housemaid's knee, or water on the knee. Prolonged leaning on one's elbows may damage the bursa close to the olecranon process, producing student's elbow, or olecranon bursitis. Bursitis may also result from bacterial infection (usually Staph. aureus), gout, or rheumatoid arthritis.

Common symptoms of acute bursitis include:

  • Pain (made worse by joint movement),
  • A reduced range of motion
  • Redness, localised tenderness and swelling

Treatment of Bursitis...

Severe cases are treated by injecting anti-inflammatory drugs into the bursa. If excessive fluid accumulates, removing some fluid by needle aspiration may relieve the pressure. This disorder typically afflicts the hip or shoulder joints.

Chronic bursitis may follow, manifesting as adhesions, calcium deposits, muscle atrophy, frozen shoulder, and tennis elbow.

The following information may be of assistance with bursitis from trauma or overuse. If your bursitis is caused by an infection, gout, or rheumatoid arthritis, this underlying problem will need to be addressed specifically also.

  • Avoid any foods that may increase inflammation such as caffeine e.g. coffee, tea, chocolate and soft drinks.
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco and sugar products.
  • Avoid tomatoes, eggplant, capsicums, and potatoes.
  • Eat plenty of fruit - specifically cherries.
  • Eat dairy alternatives such as soy cheese, almond cheese, rice milk or soy milk.
  • Fresh fruit and vegetable juices are excellent.
  • Identify and eliminate food sensitivities as they can aggravate this condition

High potency anti-inflammatory support herbs include

Turmeric provides a strong antioxidant action to reduce inflammatory triggers.

Other herbs that may help bursitis include Feverfew, Meadowsweet, Celery seed, and White Willow.

For improving inflamed joints, take a decoction, or tincture, of Devil's Claw.

Pupleuri root, Liquorice, and Chinese Skullcap are recommended for their powerful anti-inflammatory effects by Chinese herbalists. Also recommended in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) are Cinnamon twigs, Tinospora stem, Angelica, and Ledebouriella root.

Ayurvedic medicine uses Ginger, Coriander, and Aloe Vera to treat bursitis. Angelica is a good tonic and is warming. Barberry, taken as a tea or applied as a compress, can be used to treat pain and inflammation.

Bromelain has natural anti-inflammatory properties. Take 500 mg, 3 times daily, between meals. The essential fatty acids in Flaxseed oil may help to reduce pain and inflammation by blocking certain prostaglandins. Take 1-2 tablespoons daily. Salmon oil also supplies omega 3 fatty acids that have been shown to reduce pain and inflammation. Take 2 caps (1000mg each) twice daily. Grape seed extract promotes healing of joint and connective tissue. 100 mg daily would be a good amount.

Glucosamine sulphate has been shown to be anti-inflammatory, and may be used to rebuild and repair joint tissue. 500mg 3 x daily is a therapeutic amount. Liquid Bovine Tracheal cartilage has anti-inflammatory and connective tissue repair properties making it indispensable in the treatment of soft tissue injuries. It contains the complete nutrient profile for the repair of connective tissue. We have a vegetarian alternative product for those who do not consume animal products.

A multivitamin, with therapeutic amounts of the B vitamins, will assist cellular repair. B12 and Folate are required for cellular repair and are necessary for the proper growth, function and repair of cells in the body. Studies have shown that Vitamin B12 supplementation over several weeks provides relief from the pain of bursitis. Bursitis, particularly deltoid bursitis, may possibly indicate a B12 insufficiency. 1 mg injected intramuscularly by your physician every day for 10 days is the usual treatment. Then take orally, as needed, to keep the inflammation stabilised. Vitamin A is needed for tissue repair and the immune system. Vitamin C and Bioflavonoids assist to reduce inflammation, strengthen connective tissue, and potentiate immune system function. 1000 mg, 4x daily, would be beneficial. Vitamin E is an anti-inflammatory, free radical scavenger and the recommended amount for bursitis is 800 IU per day.

Coenzyme Q10 is good for circulation, and so is DMG. These nutrients may also help the repair of free radical damage. Germanium has been shown to enhance the immune system, and reduce inflammation and pain. Calcium and Magnesium, 1000 mg of each daily, will assist proper connective tissue repair. Minerals Zinc, Manganese and Copper supply substrate for the important antioxidant superoxide dismutase.

For relief of aches and pains, try a liniment made with tincture of Comfrey and a few drops of Black Pepper essential oil. Use Juniper essential oil in the bath, or as part of a massage blend. It has stimulating and anti-rheumatic qualities. Do not use Juniper if you are pregnant or have kidney problems. Chamomile, Lavender, and Rosemary are anti-inflammatory and may help to relieve pain. Use on a compress, or for local massage. Black Pepper, Eucalyptus, Marjoram, and Benzoin will improve the circulation in the area and may reduce stiffness. Calamus oil may be rubbed onto the affected joint.

Acute Homoeopathy may help with symptom relief...

Belladonna is for pain which is made worse by the slightest movement, with red hot joints that are swollen and throbbing. Kali iod. is indicated for pains that are worse at night. Rhus tox., for tearing pains with stiff, swollen joints, and which are made worse by heat and cold. Pulsatilla is for dragging pain and tightness over the bursa, with chilliness. Apis symptoms include burning, stinging pain made worse by heat. Sticta is for shooting pains, while Bryonia is for pain made worse by movement or heat. Silica 30c may help bunions, but a chiropodist should be consulted. Ferrum phos. 30c, or as a tissue salt, may help with bursitis. Useful in the first stages of an inflammatory condition.

Eating Nettles, or drinking Nettle tea, is a traditional remedy for pain and inflammation. Apple Cider foot baths, or Ginger root baths, can help to reduce symptoms and encourage healing. Hot or cold compresses on the area will help to disperse swelling. Rub a little Rescue Remedy Cream into the affected area to encourage healing and provide pain relief. Rescue Remedy may be taken orally during an acute attack to calm and restore. Apply a poultice of Slippery Elm and Cayenne to the affected joints.

Nutritional and Herbal support for Bursitis:

Quercetin and Bromelain - Appears to reduce swelling and inflammation, help reduce pain symptoms, and may offer an alternative to non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Glucosamine - A natural substance found largely in cartilage, ligaments and tendons. Give the body the building blocks it needs to help repair cartilage, ligament & tendon damage, while offering anti-inflammatory properties also.

Salmon oil - An excellent source of Omega-3 acids (EPA & DHA), Vitamin A and D. Provides an anti-inflammatory action in the body.

Turmeric, Ginger and Boswellia - A blend of high potency anti-inflammatory herbs with a strong antioxidant capacity. Used as an excellent alternative to conventional anti-inflammatories, these herbs powerfully reduce the triggers and mediators of many inflammatory processes.

Some interesting points about Bursitis...

  • Splint and rest the affected area. Ice packs are indicated for acute injuries - for the first 24 hours. For the following 36 hours, alternating hot and cold packs will help. 72 hours after the injury has occurred, hot castor oil packs may provide relief.
  • Some people have found that fasting helps the body to deal with the inflammation and reduce toxicity. A 7 day raw food diet, followed by a 3 day cleansing, or juice, fast may help.
  • Consider seeing a qualified physiotherapist, acupuncturist, or osteopath.


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The Naturopathic Team
Ideal Health

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered and is intended to be used for educational and general information purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or as a means to diagnose, treat, cure or prescribe for any particular condition or disease. You assume all responsibility for the treatment which may be undertaken as a result of the information on this site, or treatment recommended by any other party. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.

If you need help or advice, please email our naturopathic team with your health question.  Please allow 48 hours for a response.

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