Tendons are often the first thing thought of with regard to joint pain, but there are also small cushioning sacs surrounding our joints called bursae that can become inflamed. According to Dr. Robert Rister in "Healing Without Medication," bursitis occurs when the bursae fill with extra fluid in response to trauma. Bursitis can result from gout or rheumatoid arthritis, but the most common cause is repetitive motion--such as swinging a tennis racket. When bursae are overused, they become abraded and inflamed. They fill with fluid, causing them to impede movement rather than aid it. According to the Mayo Clinic, because most bursitis goes away on its own, self treatment is usually the best option. There are several natural methods to speed it along.
In "1000 Cures for 200 Ailments," conventional medicine expert Christine Gustafson recommends hot and cold compresses. Cold compresses may be most useful for the first day or two in order to prevent swelling. After that, you can alternate between warm and cold compresses for 20 minutes at a time, three times a day.
Stretching and Physical Activity
According to Dr. Gustafson, although your instinct is to protect the joint by keeping it immobile, total physical inactivity can slow your recovery. Stretch daily to improve the range of motion of the affected joint and the entire body. This increases blood flow to the joint, speeding healing. It also prevents recurrence of the bursitis. And although you shouldn't perform the activity that initially caused the bursitis, it's important to still exercise the affected joint--though you may need to be gentle with it.
In "1000 Cures for 200 Ailments," naturopathy expert Dr. Geovanni Espinosa advises an anti-inflammatory diet. Eat lots of fish and walnuts, which contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 has an anti-inflammatory effect and increases joint lubrication. Avoid refined sugars and hydrogenated oils.
In "Healing Without Medication," Dr. Robert Rister suggests vitamin B12. He says that in the 1950s, researchers discovered that a shot of vitamin B12 to the affected joint relieved bursitis pain and stopped calcification. Dr. Rister says although it's not as effective as a shot, consuming 1,000mg to 2,000mg of vitamin B a day can provide some of the same relief. In "Solve It With Supplements," Dr. Robert Schulman says proteolic digestive enzymes can be as effective in reducing bursitis pain as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin. Vitamin C is necessary for the production of collagen, which is a necessary component of connective tissue. Dr. Schulman suggests you take 500mg to 1,000mg of buffered vitamin C twice daily with food. Glucosamine and chondroitin are both also very effective in reducing joint inflammation and building strong connective tissue. You can find it with MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) included. MSM boosts the effects of glucosamine and chondroitin, acting as an anti-inflammatory.
Dr. David Kiefer, herbalism expert for "1000 Cures for 200 Ailments," highly recommends the topical application of castor oil to relieve bursitis pain. Put 5mL to 10mL on a washcloth. Place the washcloth on the affected area and wrap it with plastic wrap. Apply external heat to the wrap with warm towels. Do this for 30 to 45 minutes three times a day. Boswellia is a tree used in traditional Indian medicine. Dr. Schulman suggests taking 450mg to 1,200mg of boswellia extract split into two or three doses through the day. It contains boswellic acids, which reduce pain and inflammation in joints. White willow bark is an extremely effective anti-inflammatory and analgesic. It contains salicin, the precursor to the main ingredient in aspirin, salicylic acid. Though it works in a similar manner, it doesn't irritate the stomach as aspirin does.
- "Healing Without Medication"; Robert S. Rister; 2003
- "1000 Cures for 200 Ailments"; Editor Dr. Victor Sierpina; 2007
- "Solve It With Supplements"; Robert A. Schulman, M.D.; 2007
Jeffrey Rice became an ACE-accredited personal trainer in 2007, and began writing about fitness to support his business. Soon, however, he found himself writing more than training, and has since written health, fitness and supplement articles for numerous websites. He holds a M.F.A. in creative writing from Cleveland State University.