Small, fluid-filled sacs called bursae act as gel gliding between bone and muscles, tendons, or skin and can become inflamed with repetitive motions. Once these sacs are inflamed, there’s more friction between the bone and the muscles moving around, making the problem worse. 10-20% of all patients with hip problems are attributed to hip bursitis. Joints of the body with higher ranges of motion typically see the most bursitis damage from repetitive use or pressure. Therefore, bursitis is more common in the shoulder, hip, knee, or the elbow.
Aching, inflamed, and painful joints can often be mistaken for arthritis. Although bursitis does result in joint pain, it’s directly caused by repetitive stress or high pressure to a specific joint.
What Causes Bursitis?
Typically, symptoms are chronic due to long-term repeat motions. An infection or hard injury to the joint can also cause acute bursitis symptoms.
Common Bursitis Symptoms
Main symptoms include swelling, irritation, stiffness, and a dull pain around the affected joint area. Bursitis pain is normally dull but can be sharp depending on severity. Additionally, pain caused by bursitis is felt both when active and at rest with the affected areas painful to the touch. Visible swelling for bursitis is usually more common in bursae closer to the surface of the skin (i.e. elbows or kneecaps). With chronic bursitis development, gradual swelling over time is more likely.
Symptoms of bursitis include—
• Irritation, stiffness, and possible swelling
• Dull pain that can sometimes be sharp
• Painful to the touch
• Pain with or without joint movement
Bursitis Pain Management
Luckily, bursitis pain and inflammation can be effectively managed with rest, ice, and pain relievers (i.e. NSAIDs). It’s important to seek medical care if the pain doesn’t alleviate and is consistent or even worse after rest. With more serious cases, draining the bursa to reduce swelling or antibiotics may be required if an infection is present. With treatment, the goal is to develop a program that effectively changes or removes the actions that are at the root of the bursitis pain. Attending a physical therapy program to supplement your bursitis treatment will allow for the quicker resolution of any bursitis pain and overall symptoms.
How Does Physical Therapy Help?
If you participate in a job, activity, or hobby that is aggravating symptoms, it’s important to consider adjusting parts of your lifestyle to benefit your overall treatment. A physical therapist will work with you one-on-one to develop a musculoskeletal treatment regimen with mobility assessments and direct manual therapy.
Manual Therapy & Long-Term Treatment
Depending on the joint, a therapist will help you correctly perform manual therapy exercises for bursitis such as—
• ART (Active Release Techniques)
• IASTM (Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization)
• Joint mobilization and manipulation
• Corrective exercises
Repetitive overuse, poor movement habits, and muscle imbalances all contribute to bursa inflammation. Any direct pressure onto the joint can exacerbate bursitis inflammation. In order to lessen acute bursitis pain and improve range of motion, manual therapy pressure must be applied to the surrounding tissues. Once the pain is addressed, corrective exercises can be applied for long-term management to strengthen and stretch specific muscle groups.
The goal of physical therapy treatment for bursitis symptoms is to mobilize normal musculoskeletal mechanics with guided personal treatment. Any stiffness and pain will be resolved and future bouts of bursitis will be effectively warded off. 90 percent of patients will find bursitis pain relief with activity modification, physical therapy, and pain relievers. Stiffness and pain that impacts your ability to actively interact with your day-to-day activities must be treated at every source.