What is Elbow Bursitis? 

Medically known as olecranon bursitis, this happens when you feel like you have a painful tenderness near your elbow. When we refer to the olecranon we refer to the pointed tip of the elbow.

There is a thin sac of fluid between this point of the elbow and the surrounding skin which is known as the bursa. These bursas that are located near the joint have an important function.

They act as shockproof and lubricating material that cushions the joints, bones, muscles, and tendons. The specific function of the bursa near the elbow is that it helps the skin slide smoothly over the olecranon bone.

For whatever reason, whenever the bursa gets inflamed, it overflows with extra fluid and can become extremely painful. This condition is known as elbow bursitis.

What Are the Symptoms of Elbow Bursitis?

The symptoms of Elbow bursitis include the following- 

  • A feeling of stiffness near the elbow. 
  • Intense and sharp pain near the elbow joint. 
  • Pain that is sensitive to touch and pressure. 
  • Your elbow joint becomes inflamed and red. 
  • The swelling is progressive and gets worse by the day. 

Also Read: Elbow Arthritis: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

What Is the Treatment Plan for Elbow Bursitis?

Elbow Bursitis happens with varying degrees of severity, however, these are some of the most recommended treatment plans that you should be following for faster recovery- 

  • For extremely mild cases of Elbow Bursitis, you can always try the tried and tested technique of RICE technique which is the best treatment option for you, if you are recovering at home.

    Resting for a day or two before resuming your activities is important as it helps your tendons recuperate and heal and repair the tears in them. Icing is an important home remedy to help with inflammation and swelling.

    Compression in the form of braces or swings is an important tool to help the tendons and muscles rest and recuperate. Braces exclusively designed for tennis elbows are available at any pharmacy store or sporting goods store.

    You may need to wear this brace for elongated periods of time, to help bring back normal function. Elevation, keeping your affected region raised for periods of time can lead to faster recovery. It encourages healthy blood flow. 
  • Change your workout plan if you are into racquet sports, exercise, and heavy weight lifting. Your stance and movement need to be altered to stop stressing the elbow joint. Bursitis is a common overuse disorder that can happen due to repetitive movements.

    So if you are into intensive sports, it is best that you take some rest periods from these sports and add some less intensive physical activities which you can discuss with your physiotherapist or doctor. 
  • In case your pain does not subside after activity changes and the RICE technique, consider medications.  For mild cases, along with the RICE technique, NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to reduce pain and inflammation.

    These are easily available over the counter in pharmacy shops. If these treatment options do not help in reducing your pain, then you should consult with your doctor. They might order imaging tests like X-RAYs or MRI to get a closer look at your injury. 
  • To protect the affected elbow joint for the period of recovery, it is best to use an elbow pad to help cushion it and protect it from further injury. It causes enough compression and also provides heat that can work on swelling and stiffness. 
  • Talk to your doctor about prescribing antibiotics, if the inflammation is caused due to an infection. Sometimes a bacteria named Staphylococcus aureus is responsible for infected bursa cases. Always complete the full course of antibiotics even after you feel like you have recovered. 
  • For long-term prevention especially for people involved in sports and who are extremely physically active- physiotherapy for elbow pain is a sustainable solution for tendonitis. This is a must explore option, especially for Bursitis.

    Physiotherapy for elbow pain involves a collection of muscle strengthening, movement correction, and postural correction to focus on the root of the problem. It is a very effective non-invasive technique and also a drug-free approach to treatment.

    It helps with bringing back your original range of motion and flexibility and devises safe plans for people with arthritis and other existing degenerative conditions. Physiotherapy uses massage techniques, electrotherapy, movement correction, and much more to work at the root of the problem.

    Treatment options like ESWT or Extra Corporeal Shock Wave Therapy use sound waves to stimulate the muscles and expedite the body’s natural healing process. This is commonly used by sportspersons or people with regular injuries as a long-term solution for pain relief and prevention.

    A new form of treatment or therapy is PPT (platelet-rich plasma therapy). This is when the platelets from the blood of the patient are prepared that consist of healing proteins and are injected to speed up the recovery process.
  • Sometimes, a steroid injection is directly injected at the point of the infected bursa to reduce painful symptoms and red inflammation caused by this disease. 
  • In very severe cases, surgery is also considered when the bursa has to be drained because of complications. In these cases, you need to numb the area with a local anesthetic. The doctor will insert a needle to drain the inflamed bursa of the fluid. Sometimes, it also needs to be surgically removed if your bursitis is a chronic issue.

Do See a Doctor If

  • The elbow has become warm to touch
  • You start developing a high fever 
  • Your elbow starts developing a rash or starts bruising 
  • The bursa has becomes very swollen and painful 
  • You are unable to move your elbow at all 

Also Read: Golfer’s Elbow – Symptoms and Causes and Treatment

For more information about elbow bursitis and physiotherapy for elbow pain, head on to Phyt Health website, India’s first digital physiotherapy platform offering online physiotherapy services and consultations. With a wealth of knee exercises present on their website, you can include them in your daily life depending on your comfort level. All these exercises are curated by expert physiotherapists at Phyt Health. You can also book your online video consultation on the app, to discuss any issues you might be facing and begin your journey towards recovery!