Tendinitis and Bursitis
Pain in a shoulder, elbow, knee or other joint can be a sign of tendonitis or bursitis. Tendonitis is an inflammation of or small tear in a tendon — the fibrous tissue that connects muscles to bones. Common sites of tendonitis include the Achilles tendon in the ankle and the rotator cuff in the shoulder, as well as in the elbow, knee and wrist.
Bursitis is an inflammation of the bursa - sacs of fluid around a joint that cushion the muscle, bone and ligaments from friction when the joint moves. Bursitis is most likely to affect the shoulder, elbow, hip or knee.
Causes of Tendinitis and Bursitis
Tendinitis and bursitis are usually caused by repetitive physical activity, often by sports such as tennis, swimming, golf, and baseball, though they may also be caused by occupational physical work present in jobs like carpentry or butchering. Infections such as gonorrhea and rheumatoid arthritis may also be contributing causes of tendinitis. Trauma, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and Staph infections may cause bursitis. Finally, a person’s chances of developing bursitis increase if a person is overweight because this puts extra stress on the individual’s leg joints.
Prevention of Tendinitis and Bursitis
The easiest way to prevent tendinitis is to warm up and stretch before exercising. Beginning an exercise session without warming up and stretching greatly increases the risk of irritating or tearing the body’s tendons. Persons participating in sports that require a high amount of repetitive motion, such as tennis, should consult their coach as to the proper techniques and ways to avoid tendinitis. Individuals should also take care to wear proper athletic equipment, especially well-fitted and cushioned shoes, which can help prevent tendinitis in the Achilles tendon and knees. To prevent gonorrhea, individuals should use protection when having intercourse and avoid having sex with persons who they know to have gonorrhea.
Similarly, bursitis is most easily prevented by avoiding repetitive motions with the same joint. When working, individuals should wear protective gear (i.e. kneepads when gardening). Individuals should also take care to maintain a healthy weight that does not put undue stress on their weight-bearing lower body parts.
Symptoms of Tendinitis and Bursitis
Tendinitis is characterized by pain and inflammation around the Achilles tendon, ankle, rotator cuff, knees, wrists, or above the elbow. Bursitis is pain in the joints of the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees.
How the Condition is Diagnosed
Bursitis and tendinitis are easily diagnosed by a doctor after examination of a patient’s medical history, symptoms, and affected area. Often, an examination of the patient’s normal physical activities related to work or play will help the doctor identify the cause.
For tendinitis specifically, the doctor will usually check the offending joint’s range of motion, strength, and tenderness. Sometimes, X-rays are used to make sure there are no broken bones. An MRI may be needed to determine the extent of tendinitis in the Achilles heel.
For bursitis, the doctor will press on the painful joint area to see if the pain is coming from the bursa sacs. Bursa sacs may be drained to analyze the fluid for infections, and blood tests can be taken to look for rheumatoid arthritis or other infections.
Tendinitis and Bursitis Possible Treatments
Healing tendons can be a difficult process because of the lack of blood flow to the tendons. Sometimes, tendinitis and bursitis can be treated by the suffering individual themselves. First, the individual should apply ice to the afflicted area for twenty minutes at a time, several times per day. Heat should be applied afterwards to improve the individual’s range of motion. The joint should be rested for at least a week to allow it to heal. Once pain has stopped (this may take several weeks), they activity may be resumed.
Some traditional medications may be helpful in treating bursitis and tendinitis, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or other anti-inflammatory agents which may also serve to treat pain. Sometimes, doctors recommend corticosteroid injections to reduce pain for a short period of time. For gonorrhea, antibiotics are prescribed. Surgery may be prescribed to remove fluid from a bursa sac, but usually other treatments are attempted first.
Physical therapy may aid persons whose injuries are caused by repetitive actions. Massage and hydrotherapy often help to restore joint mobility. Acupuncture is another popular method of treatment. A number of natural alternatives, listed below, may also help relieve tendinitis and bursitis.
Willow (Salix) and other natural pain relievers may be helpful when dealing with tendinitis and bursitis. Aspirin has its origins in willow bark, and meadowsweet and wintergreen have similar effects on the body. Willow, meadowsweet, and wintergreen all contain salicylates, which were the precursors to aspirin. All of these herbs may be dried and used to make a tea. Persons allergic to aspirin should also avoid these herbs.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) has long been used as a remedy for bursitis, specifically in the Asian tradition. Echinacea (Echinacea), also called coneflower, is an herb that is known to be an effective treatment for connective tissue injuries like tennis elbow, skier’s knee, and jogger’s ankle. Echinacea may be helpful for other types of tendinitis as well. Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) contains a lot of silicon, which helps to keep cartilage and connective tissues like tendons healthy, strong, and resilient. A tea can be made using horsetail for treating tendinitis. Other plants that are high in silicon include Brazil nuts, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, string beans, turnips, barley, chickweed, cucumbers, parsley, and stinging nettle.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is a good substitute for steroid injections, as it may have the same soothing effects without any of the undesirable side effects. Steroids may cause weight gain, indigestion, insomnia, and lowered resistance to infection. Pineapple (Ananas comosus) is another useful substance, as it tends to reduce swelling, bruising, and pain, and also may help joint and tendon injuries heal more quickly than they would otherwise.
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) and other foods that are high in magnesium may have therapeutic effects on tendinitis and bursitis, as magnesium helps build and retain muscles, bones, and connective tissues. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) has been used for many years to treat inflammatory conditions affecting the joints. Turmeric (Curcurma longa) is another effective herb for dealing with inflammation.
- Bratman, S. The Alternative Medicine Ratings Guide: an expert panel rates the best treatments for over 80 conditions, Prima Health A Division of Prima Publishing (1998)
- Brown, L. Alternative Medicine, NTC/Contemporary Publishing (1999)
- Deepak Chopra, M.D. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide, Celestial Arts (2002)
- Duke, J. The Green Pharmacy: Herbal remedies for common diseases and conditions from the world's foremost authority on healing herbs,Rodale Limited (2003)
- Nancy Allison. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Body-Mind Disciplines, The Rosen Publishing Group (1999)
- Servan-Schreiber, D. The Encyclopedia of New Medicine: Conventional & Alternative Medicine For All Ages, Rodale International Limited (2006)
Posted in Tendonitis & BursitisAsk a Question Or Join a Discussion