Soothing the Pain of Bursitis and Tendinopathy
by Jeff Siegel
Whether you work out on a regular basis, are a weekend warrior, or have just gone a little too far with home activities you know that overdoing it can lead to unhappiness. Activities that are repetitive or too intense can cause minor tears and strains which cause pain that can slow you down. If you've ever mentioned you had an achy joint, you may have heard the term tendonitis or bursitis. Is this really what you have? And more importantly, how do you get rid of it?
Birth of Bursitis and Tendonitis
Tendons and bursae help support movement at your joints. Bursa are fluid filled sacs that help your tendons glide over bony areas of your joints. Tendons are connective tissues that bind muscles to bones. When these structures become injured, they can make joint movement painful. Overuse or stress injuries can easily cause the following injuries:
These injuries may be caused by something as simple as housecleaning or your everyday job, to something more complex like sports. It may also be caused by an imbalance in the muscles around your joint. It may be difficult to tell if the problems is with the tendon or bursa.
The pain may not always be due to an obvious injury. It may slowly develop or intensify over time. It is important to know your body to help distinguish between normal soreness from some workouts and soreness that indicates a problem.
Listen to Your Body, Avoid the Problem
Pain is a communication tool. It is the way your brain tells you that you need to pay attention because something is wrong. If you are feeling pain, you need to assess why, especially if the pain continues or recurs often. Ignoring the pain may simply force you to be unnecessarily uncomfortable. It can also lead to long term problems.
Note what activities may be causing the pain. Find ways to change the activity to reduce stress on your joints. Some adaptations that may help include:
Not all injuries can be prevented. Fortunately most tendon and bursa problems can be relieved with some basic at home care.
You Have Pain, Now What?
Bursitis and tendinopathy need time and attention to heal. Most of the time, the pain will go away with home care. Here are some tips on what you can do at home:
These steps will help relieve discomfort but may not solve the underlying problem. Talk to your doctor if the pain does not go away. Your doctor may recommend other treatment options such as joint injections and physical therapy.
In some cases, cortisone may be injected into the bursa or around tendons. This medicine may help to reduce swelling and irritation.. These injections may make the pain may go away temporarily. The cause of the bursitis or tendonitis will still need to be addressed.
Physical therapy may help relieve the cause of the tendonitis or bursitis. A physical therapist may help to:
Other treatments like ice or heat therapy, braces, or wraps may help to manage the pain while you heal.
You may never know for sure if your ache is from tendinopathy or bursitis. Rest is the most important step for either injury. Give your body the chance it needs to heal before jumping back in to action. A few days of frustration are much easier to deal with than long term pain.
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
American Society of Exercise Physiologists
Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology
Healthy Living Unit
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Last reviewed November 2012 by Brian P. Randall, MD