One of the more challenging areas of Dr. Nathen Horst’s practice is when a patient is unable to pinpoint a specific reason for pain. He may ask the patient if they remember injuring themselves, particularly if it involved a hip, knee, elbow, or ankle. To complicate matters further, some patients say that the pain came on suddenly, while others say it has developed slowly over time. This vague set of symptoms and possible causes can be rather mystifying, particularly as they seem very similar to tendonitis.
Of course, tendonitis can be easily ruled out by determining whether or not the pain is localized to the tendons surrounding the affected joint. If not, then bursitis may be the cause of pain and stiffness. What is bursitis, what causes it, and how can chiropractic care properly treat it?
What Is Bursitis?
When your tendons slide over your muscles during movement, they move over small cushioning sacs that are filled with a lubricating fluid. This allows for a smooth surface that reduces friction by absorbing any of the shock generated by the movement. If these fluid sacs, called bursae, become inflamed or irritated, it can lead to bursitis. If left untreated, scar tissue around the bursae can build up, which may make the condition chronic. This is why Dr. Horst believes it is vital to catch this condition as early as possible, before the condition takes hold for months, or sometimes years.
What Causes Bursitis?
Similar to tendonitis, repetitive motion injuries, such as from sports, can cause bursitis. In fact, more than half of all repetitive motion injuries are often traced to either tendonitis or bursitis. One classic example is bursitis of the elbow for baseball and softball pitchers. Dr. Horst recommends that pitchers ice their pitching elbow between games to help it recover.
Continual pressure on the bursae can also lead to bursitis. One good example of this is kneeling for extended periods of time on hard surfaces, such as while scrubbing floors or gardening. Appropriate padding, such as a folded towel or pillow, will help provide a softer surface for the knees during extended periods of kneeling.
Age can also be a factor in bursitis, as the tendons lose their elasticity and may not move as freely across the bursae as they once did. Gentle stretching exercises and yoga may help keep the joints flexible.
If bursitis is caught in the early stages, Dr. Horst recommends ultrasound and massage therapy to reduce inflammation and break down scar tissue. Once the acute pain has been reduced, joint manipulation can be used to loosen up the surrounding soft tissue and increase flexibility and range of motion. Physiotherapy and exercises can help reduce the chances of recurrence. An ongoing maintenance care plan can then reduce the possibility of future flare-ups.
Bursitis can be very frustrating to identify, as the symptoms can seem diffuse. However, once Dr. Horst has properly diagnosed the problem, a regimen including several different treatment methods can help ease your pain and stiffness.