Bursitis is an inflammation of a joint capsule. This pathology can affect any joint, including an elbow joint. Bursitis of the elbow joint has its own distinctive features. Olecranon (elbow) bursitis has a gradual onset. Typically, its symptoms develop slowly and over time result in permanent disability. This happens due to certain peculiarities of the atomic structure of this joint.
Joint capsule or bursa is a connective tissue membrane. From inside it is covered by so-called synovitis. It consists of cells that secrete articular or synovial fluid. The latter acts as a lubricant and prevents articular surfaces from wearing of. Furthermore, this fluid takes part in transportation of nutrients to the articular cartilage.
Human elbow joint is a rather complex anatomical structure. Three bones compose it: humerus, ulna and radius and therefore it consists of three simple joints: humero-ulnar, humero-radial and radioulnar joint. Accordingly, there are also three joint bursae.
Causes of Elbow Bursitis
Main causes of elbow bursitis are injuries, excessive exercise and infection. Therefore, doctors distinguish traumatic, gouty and septic olecranon bursitis. Moreover, in some cases these factors can combine. For example, open elbow injuries lead to infection of the joint capsule. Blood that penetrates into your elbow bursa during or after the injury is a good breeding ground for germs. Severely injured elbow joint easily gets infected. Over time, the content of your joint cavity can fester. Purulent bursitis of the elbow joint can be one of the manifestations of sepsis, if infection gets into your elbow from other purulent loci. Specific infections, for example, staph infection, tuberculosis, syphilis and gonorrhea can also cause bursitis of the elbow.
In addition to joint structures bursitis in elbow can affect muscles, tendons and peripheral nerve fibers. It all starts with the formation of pathological effusion (exudate) in your joint cavity. Apart from injuries and infections, accumulation of exudate can be due to physical stress. Usually it is very true about athletes, tennis players and workers. Moreover, these physical loads are not necessarily heavy, but as a rule permanent. In this connection, elbow bursitis often develops in office workers, draftsmen and programmers.
Symptoms of Elbow Bursitis
The main elbow bursitis symptoms include:
- Reduced range of motion;
- Elbow joint becomes swollen;
- Redness of the skin in elbow area;
- Shoulder and forearm muscles become tense.
The more acute is the inflammatory process, the more severe are its manifestations. Acute elbow bursitis progresses with severe pain and visible edema. When you touch elbow joint, you can easily feel so-called fluctuation, which is basically the exudate within the elbow bursa that you feel with your fingers. It feels and looks like a lump on your arm. Skin in the affected area is not only red, but also hot by touch. In such cases, a patient has not only high local temperature, but also fever. All this is accompanied by the phenomena of general intoxication. You can feel weakness, malaise, dysfunction of your organs and systems.
Professional bursitis occurs mostly chronically. Its symptoms are dimmed a bit: pain is not too strong, exudate gathers in small amount and other common symptoms are absent. However, chronic inflammation of your elbow joint capsule leads to persistent functional disorders of your elbow.
If you suspect that you have olecranon bursitis, you should go to a specialist, make some tests, undergo MRI and X ray scanning procedures. After this your doctor will be able to cure the disease.
The Main Treatment of Elbow Bursitis
Elbow bursitis treatment should start with a protective rest mode. As a first measure of treating this disease, doctors usually limit the range of motion of your arm. For this purpose they use pressing or triangular bandage, elbow pads for bursitis and a special brace. With extensive closed injuries doctors can even put a plaster cast to immobilize your arm.
If you have an open damage or trauma, your doctor will do a special surgery to clean the wound and apply antiseptic dressing afterwards. The earlier you start these procedures, the lower is the risk of infection and other complications. Mandatory is intake of broad-spectrum antibiotics. If you have accumulated exudate in your joint cavity, it should be removed with a syringe. Such aspiration should be performed under sterile conditions. After the pus exudate has been removed from your joint bursa, your doctor will inject steroid hormones into your joint capsule to reduce inflammation and provide pain relief.
A powerful anti-inflammatory effect develops after use of NSAIDs – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs are taken in combination with other medicine. If your elbow is not covered with bandage or plaster, and there are no wounds on it, you can use special gels and ointments with ibuprofen along with the pills you take. In addition to the antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs your doctor can prescribe some means for the immune system, such as vitamins, calcium supplements or immune stimulants.
Once the acute phase has passed, elbow bursitis is treated with physiotherapy. Usually doctors prescribe magnetic therapy, phonophoresis with hydrocortisone, paraffin and ozokerite applications. Under the influence of physical therapy the inflammation is completely eliminated and metabolic processes in your joint capsule improve. To strengthen your elbow and shoulder muscles in the recovery period you should do a special set of therapeutic exercises. They must be selected by your doctor individually for you. The exercises begin with a minimum load. Further exercises are performed with a little weight.
Home Remedies for Bursitis
In addition to medications and physiotherapy treatment you can treat elbow bursitis with home remedies. But keep in mind that you must consult your doctor every time you want to try any new natural remedy. Here we provide the most effective recipes for olecranon bursitis treatment at home. All they contain only natural plant or animal products, minerals and sometimes domestic means. The following examples are:
- Mix 10 grams of propolis with one third of glass of strong alcohol. Keep it in a dark place for 5 days in a tightly closed glass jar. Use this substance as a lotion;
- Mix 1 tablespoon of fresh aloe juice with 2 tablespoons of honey and add 3 tablespoons of alcohol. Apply the resulting mixture as a compress on your elbow;
- Lightly squeeze the freshly picked leaves of lilac. Then put them on your affected elbow and fix them there;
- Heat some salt or sand, put in a small cotton pouch and attach it to your elbow. Keep this for 10-15 minutes.
Using all these means reduces pain and swelling in your elbow. However, traditional medicine only complements the generally accepted methods of bursitis treatment. That is why be very careful and try to prevent the appearance of complications of elbow bursitis. To this end, address your doctor in time.
Preventive measures for bursitis involve correct mode of work and rest. You should also avoid hypothermia and excessive exercise. Office workers and programmers should pay a special attention to the ergonomics of their workplace.