Elbow bursitis can hinder your everyday activities because of the pain and soreness at the elbow's tip. This illness can cause significant disruptions to daily living for individuals who depend substantially on elbow function. The good news is that physical therapy provides a tried-and-true course of treatment.

The cause of the pain is inflammation of the olecranon bursa, a little fluid-filled sac near the end of the elbow. As cushions, bursae lessen friction during movement between bones, tendons, and muscles. Prolonged pressure, direct hits, or repetitive actions can all irritate the bursa and cause inflammation. As a result, the formerly flexible cushion swells and becomes sensitive, making even simple chores difficult.

Fortunately, conservative treatment for elbow bursitis usually works well. We at Suarez Physical Therapy in Las Vegas specialize in creating individualized treatment plans relevant to your needs. We can help you regain comfortable elbow function.

Symptoms of Elbow Bursitis

Several signs are noticeable when suffering from elbow bursitis. Some of the notable symptoms include:

  • Pain — You could experience soreness in your elbow. It is the most common symptom. This pain could worsen with movements that bend or extend your elbow joint.
  • Swelling — You could also spot a noticeable swelling at the elbow tip, which may be the result of bursa inflammation. It could look swollen or inflated, making it harder to fully extend your arm.
  • Tenderness — The swollen area is usually susceptible to pressure or touch. Even a tiny amount of contact can worsen the discomfort.
  • Limited Range of Motion — The discomfort and edema could severely limit your elbow's range of motion. It may be difficult to fully bend or straighten your arm, making it difficult to do daily tasks that call for elbow flexion or extension.

You should speak with a healthcare provider if you have any of these symptoms, especially if your elbow is hurting or swelling continuously. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can help you heal more quickly and avoid problems.

What Causes Elbow Bursitis

When experiencing elbow bursitis, finding the genesis of the condition could help you better understand the disease. Some of the causes include the following:

  1. Overuse

Inflammation of the olecranon bursa causes elbow bursitis. Overuse is a typical cause of this problem, especially repetitive motions that strain your elbow. Work involving many throwing actions, like carpentry or baseball, is an example of this strain.

There are two basic ways in which these repetitive actions can overtax the bursa. They can cause minute rips in the muscles and tendons close to the bursa. Just as repeated blister rubbing can irritate tissue, so can repetitive movements induce persistent stress and tears. The bursa lining becomes irritated by the injured tissue, which causes swelling and fluid accumulation.

The constant motion could also cause the bursa and the surrounding structures to become more abrasive. Like rubbing sandpaper together, this friction irritates the bursa, causing swelling and irritation.

The inflammatory bursa thickens with time, losing some of its cushioning properties. Your elbow joint then experiences pain, soreness, and a limited range of motion.

  1. Infections

The olecranon bursa can become infected with bacteria. It is rare but can result in elbow bursitis. Usually, this invasion happens because of a weakened skin barrier close to your elbow, like:

  • Puncture wounds — A deep scrape, an animal bite, or a poorly done piercing provides bacteria with an easy avenue to spread.
  • Abrasions — Inadequate cleaning and dressing leave scraped skin after a fall or contact with a harsh surface as a site of entry.
  • Skin conditions — Prolonged ailments like impetigo or eczema can erode your skin's protective layer, leaving you vulnerable to bacterial invasion.

As soon as germs get into the bursa, they grow quickly, and your immune system starts to react. An increase in white blood cells is part of this reaction, which aims to fight the infection. The fight within the bursa causes swelling, inflammation, fluid buildup, and the classic signs and symptoms of bursitis. They include pain, redness, warmth, and swelling.

Fever and chills are common extra symptoms of infectious bursa that point to a more widespread infection.

  1. Pressure

Leaning for longer is one way to put a prolonged strain on the elbow joint, which can irritate the olecranon bursa and lead to bursitis. This discomfort stems from multiple mechanisms.

Reduced blood flow is one of the causes. Extended pressure restricts the flow of nutrients and oxygen to the bursa and surrounding tissues by compressing the underlying blood vessels. This damaged supply weakens the bursa and causes inflammation, like when a garden dries.

Another factor is friction. Like touching your skin repeatedly, continuous pressure causes the bursa to push against the underlying bone and surrounding structures. The bursa becomes irritated by this friction, which causes inflammation.

In certain instances, persistent pressure could result in microscopic rips in the muscles and tendons surrounding the bursa. These microscopic tears irritate the bursa's lining, intensifying the inflammation and fluid buildup inside the bursa.

Reduced blood flow, friction, and possible tiny rips can all contribute to the bursa's eventual thickening and inflammation over time. This thickening lessens the bursa's capacity to cushion, which causes discomfort, soreness, and limited elbow joint movement.

  1. Medical Conditions

Several medical conditions can increase your risk of acquiring bursitis. These underlying issues can influence the development of bursitis in several ways:

  • Chronic inflammatory conditions — Conditions like lupus, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis cause extensive inflammation. Bursitis could result from this inflammation targeting the bursae, like the olecranon bursa in your elbow.
  • Diseases caused by crystal deposition — Bursae can be impacted by gout, characterized by the buildup of uric acid crystals in joints. When they collect close to your elbow joint, these crystals can irritate the olecranon bursa, leading to bursitis.
  • Autoimmune illnesses — Your body could mistakenly attack healthy tissues due to some autoimmune diseases. This could affect the bursae, resulting in irritation and the development of bursitis.
  • Diabetes — Diabetes can potentially impair immunological function and circulation. It could leave you more susceptible to infections, including those that can enter the olecranon bursa and induce bursitis.
  • Kidney failure — Waste materials accumulate in the bloodstream due to impaired kidney function, which causes inflammatory reactions in the bursae. Furthermore, renal illness can lead to secondary hyperparathyroidism. It will promote calcium deposits around joints like your elbow and upset the equilibrium of calcium and phosphorus. Bursitis is more likely to occur when these deposits irritate the bursa. Bursitis can also develop due to repeated pressure on your elbow during hemodialysis, a typical treatment for advanced renal illness.

You should know that the likelihood of elbow bursitis increases when you have the above medical conditions.

Treating Elbow Bursitis

There are various ways to treat elbow bursitis. You can either use at-home remedies or have medical interventions.

At-Home Remedies

At-home treatments are an effective way to manage non-infectious or early-stage elbow bursitis. You can use any of the following strategies, depending on the severity of your condition:

  • Rest and modify your activities — To reduce inflammation and encourage healing, identify activities that exacerbate bursitis and steer clear of them. For extra support during necessary chores, think about using braces or wraps.
  • Elevation — Raise your elbow above your heart to encourage less swelling while resting.
  • Ice therapy — Use ice packs covered in a thin towel on the affected area many times a day for 15 to 20-minute intervals. This will help to relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Compression — Put on a bandage or compression sleeve to offer mild support and lessen edema. Make sure it fits properly to prevent limiting blood flow.
  • Over-the-counter pain relief — Use drugs like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to treat pain and inflammation, but be sure you take them exactly as prescribed.

Medical Interventions

If bursitis symptoms include fever, chills, pus, and ongoing discomfort, you should see a doctor immediately. A timely diagnosis is crucial. Seeing a physician as soon as possible enables a rapid and precise diagnosis of the underlying infection. This makes it possible for them to start the best course of therapy right away. This will help speed up your recovery and lower the possibility of complications.

Seeking medical treatment also makes targeted therapy feasible. Some of the measures doctors could use include:

  • Antibiotic therapy — Antibiotics are critical to your treatment. The specific antibiotic for your treatment will depend on the bacteria detected. Your doctor will identify the bacteria through a series of tests. You will likely be given oral antibiotics for a few weeks to eradicate the illness.
  • Prescription painkillers — If you experience severe pain, your doctor could recommend stronger drugs, like short-term opioids or prescription-strength NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). However, your doctor will prescribe these drugs with caution because they could have unintended consequences.
  • Aspiration — If the doctor deems it necessary, your doctor could aspirate if a substantial amount of pus builds up inside the bursa. This process reduces inflammation and speeds up recovery by using a needle to remove pus and fluid.

Continuous monitoring and follow-up are necessary. Physicians can continuously monitor your progress and modify the treatment strategy as needed. They can also take care of any possible infection-related consequences.

Ignoring these signs could exacerbate the illness and increase the risk of damage to the surrounding tissues or possibly spreading through your bloodstream. Proper infection management is essential for a full recovery and guarantees early intervention.

The Role of Physical Therapy When You Suffer Elbow Bursitis

Physical therapy is useful throughout the many stages of bursitis treatment. Physical therapists tailor their approach based on your condition's severity and underlying cause. Physical therapy can be quite helpful in the early stages, particularly for non-infectious bursitis. A therapist can design a program specifically for:

  • Reduce inflammation — Physical therapists could use ultrasound or electrical stimulation to control inflammation and encourage tissue healing in the afflicted areas.
  • Increase range of motion and flexibility — Mild stretches and exercises increase your elbow joint's range of motion and flexibility, which will help relieve pain and stiffness.
  • Strengthen muscles — To improve stability and support, lessen the strain on the bursa, and stop flare-ups in the future, the therapists concentrate on strengthening the muscles surrounding your elbow joint.

Physical therapy becomes even more important for restoring full function and avoiding recurrence as the acute discomfort disappears. Here are some ways that a therapist can help you:

  • Create workouts that will increase the strength of the muscles that support your elbow joint, enhance stability, and guard against further injury.
  • Find and correct any imbalances in your movements or incorrect mechanics that might have led to your bursitis. Your therapist will teach you the proper methods to do regular tasks without overstressing your elbow.

Techniques Physical Therapists Use

Targeting the olecranon bursa, the fluid-filled sac at the tip of the elbow is the goal of physical therapy for elbow bursitis. Therapists seek to reduce inflammation, increase strength and flexibility, and restore complete joint function. Some of the typical methods your therapist could use include the following:

Manual Therapy

Therapists use hands-on methods like massages, joint, and soft tissue mobilizations. They are all part of the manual therapy treatment. These methods can increase blood flow to the inflamed bursa, decrease discomfort and stiffness, and increase flexibility.

The muscles surrounding your elbow joint are the main target in massage therapy. Massage enhances blood flow. It fosters healing and lowers inflammation within the bursa by using light pressure and strokes. Tight muscles can make discomfort worse and make it harder to move. These muscles become more pliable with massage, increasing flexibility. The body naturally produces endorphins, which are painkillers, and massage promotes their release.

On the other hand, joint mobilizations require the therapist to move your elbow joint in a gentle, controlled manner. These methods focus on the discomfort and stiffness that restrict the range of motion in your elbow. Joint mobilizations improve flexibility and restore a normal range of motion, greatly improving your comfort and day-to-day activities. Joint mobilizations aid in releasing stiffness from the joint and enhancing its range of motion. Additionally, these methods enhance the flow of synovial fluid, a lubricant that lowers friction within joints.

With soft tissue mobilization, the therapist will apply specific physical techniques to the muscles, tendons, and fascia surrounding your elbow joint. After an injury or inflammation, scar tissue can develop. This can be painful and hinder movement. By dissolving this scar tissue, soft tissue mobilizations increase the range of motion and flexibility. Like massage, these methods encourage blood flow to the affected area. It facilitates healing and lowers inflammation. Soft tissue mobilizations reduce discomfort by addressing constriction and tension in the soft tissues.

Therapeutic Exercises

In treating elbow bursitis, physical therapists use particular therapy movements to target the olecranon bursa and adjacent tissues. These exercises increase muscle strength, flexibility, and proprioception (joint awareness) for optimum healing. Here's a closer look at some of the possible exercise types:

  1. Exercises for Range of Motion

The foundation of this type of workout consists of gentle stretches. As your flexibility increases, your therapist leads you through carefully timed movements in different directions, progressively increasing the range. This aids in getting your elbow joint back to its typical range of motion.

  1. Exercises for Strengthening

It is important to strengthen the muscles that surround the elbow joint. This comprises the triceps, biceps, and forearms, muscle groups that are essential for support and stability. Stronger muscles lessen bursa strain and aid in averting flare-ups in the future. Your therapist will create a customized program to progressively increase strength without overtaxing the joint. It will include bodyweight exercises, resistance bands, and small weights.

  1. Proprioceptive Exercises

These workouts especially target the muscles and sensory receptors surrounding the elbow joint, making them challenging for balance and coordination. Proprioceptive exercises help improve joint position and stability awareness, which are essential for preventing further injuries. Some examples could include catching light balls or maintaining an elbow stance while balancing on one leg.

These are some things to consider when performing these exercises:

  • Steer clear of abrupt movements that can aggravate the irritated bursa. Throughout each stretch, pay attention to fluid, purposeful movements. Quality should come before speed.
  • If you experience discomfort, you should cease the workout and speak with your physical therapist. They can assess the pain, modify the exercise, or recommend less painful alternatives targeting the exact location.
  • Try to complete two to three sets of these exercises each day. Maintaining consistency is essential for enhancing your elbow joint's range of motion and increasing flexibility. You can gradually restore your full range of motion by stretching your elbows regularly.

Find a Physical Therapist Near Me

Though uncomfortable, elbow bursitis does not have to hinder you in the long run. A thorough treatment approach incorporating medication, physical therapy, and rest can effectively reduce inflammation and help you regain full function in your elbow. Physical therapy is vital. It addresses underlying issues like imbalances or muscle deficiencies.

When recuperating, you should adhere to your doctor's recommended course of treatment and regularly engage in the recommended exercises. Pay diligent attention to your therapies. This will guarantee a pain-free elbow and a return to your daily endeavors.

Our Las Vegas physiotherapy team at Suarez Physical Therapy is ready to help. Call us at 702-368-6778 and let us help you effectively manage elbow bursitis and regain full range of motion. We will assess your situation and tailor a recovery plan to your situation.