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A Chiropractor Talks About Bursitis and How to Beat It

By Dr. Molly Casey


Nagging pain, swelling, and irritation in different parts of the body can really put a damper on daily life. Those symptoms can also be very frustrating when it seems difficult to find out what’s causing the problem. The bursa is an often overlooked structure in the body that, when inflamed, can be a culprit of this type of symptomatology. Let’s take a look.

Anatomy and Function

Joints are where bones meet and motion is produced to allow you to move your body. Moving properly and allowing the body the greatest possible range of motion requires smooth motion of the tendons, ligaments, and muscles that are associated with the joint. A bursa is a small, slippery, fluid-filled sac found in the joint area that facilitates the smooth movement of tendons, ligaments, and muscles over the bone. The bursa acts as a cushion and reduces friction between the surfaces. There are more than 140 bursae in the body.


Bursitis refers to the inflammation of the bursa sac and occurs when the sac is irritated and inflamed. Symptoms can range from mild joint stiffness and achiness to severe loss of joint range of motion, sharp pain, and significant interference with activities of daily living. The area can become swollen, red, and enlarged. Common and more visible areas where bursitis is often noticed includes the elbows and knees. Common, though less visible, are the shoulders and hips.

Causes of bursitis can range from direct trauma (such as hitting your elbow on the ground as you fall or accidentally hitting it on a desk) to infections. More commonly, bursitis can occur through overuse (such as throwing a baseball repeatedly during training) and using the joint when it is restricted in its full range of motion.

Conservative Care

Implications of bursitis can be mild or debilitating to the activities of daily life. The symptoms can hamper nearly everything you want to do, including getting dressed and walking leisurely without pain. So what can you do conservatively if you find yourself with a bursitis problem? Luckily there are conservative avenues that, if given the proper chance, can really help you move past the pain and symptoms into healing and daily life.

Chiropractic care addresses joint range of motion. When chiropractors are adjusting the spinal joints it helps the brain communicate better with the body and the body with the brain. Adjustments performed to the spinal joints that correlate with the nerve levels that carry information to/from the brain to the bursa (and associated areas) is the first step in optimizing the body’s ability to heal most effectively and efficiently. Second, the chiropractor can assess and manipulate the joint where the bursa is located and restore proper range of motion to facilitate proper function, thus resulting in less stress on the bursa itself.

Ice and natural supplementation are supportive in both decreasing pain and controlling the inflammatory process. Inflammation is not bad, it is a required part of the healing process -- cells are cleaned up and replaced. Uncontrolled inflammation is what becomes a problem. Ice numbs the area and helps decrease pain. Natural supplementation such as quercetin, bromelain, and turmeric are great additions to assist in tempering inflammation. Asking the chiropractor if they have suggestions for products based on your specific situation is a great idea.

Do not underestimate the importance of rest. Rest is an important part of the healing process. That may include rest from activities such as your favorite exercise, limiting the amount of use of the affected joint, but it may literally mean getting proper sleep at night so your body can do its healing job. Do not forget, sleep is a positive weapon.

Although bursitis can certainly be annoying at best and debilitating at worst, it often responds well to conservative care. Should you find yourself dealing with it, see your chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic and let them help you and your body start healing.

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