Soldier On: The Battle with Bursitis

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Even the shield of prevention can’t take you completely out of the line of fire when it comes to the battleground for your health. Every individual encounters a share of skirmishes along the way, and for many, their marching orders include a battle with bursitis.

Know Your Enemy

Bursitis inflicts pain on its victims when bursae, the small, fluid-filled sacs located between bones and muscle, skin or tendons, become inflamed or irritated. When healthy, a bursa adds padding to the bones, causing smooth gliding in your joints.

The subacromial bursa helps the motion of the rotator cuff in activities such as overhead work, according to a University of North Carolina Family Medicine Center web page about symptoms and treatment of bursitis. And because it’s usually a secondary condition due to injury, overuse, or calcium deposits, protecting the affected area from further trauma is an important mission.

There are four locations of your body that are on the front lines when it comes to fending off bursitis: Shoulder, elbow, knee and hip joints. The subacromial bursa, separating the acromion from the rotator cuff, lies beneath the deltoid muscle and touches other muscles of the rotator cuff and the humerus, or upper arm, says the UNC Family Medicine site. Hip bursitis involves swelling and pain due to a bursa preventing necessary shock absorption.

Symptoms of Assault

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Patients experience various problems associated with bursitis depending on which part of the body is inflicted with the condition. The UNC site says symptoms of subacromial bursitis may include loss of active movement and tenderness in areas that include the anterior, or front, and superior, or upper, regions of the shoulder. A patient may have interrupted sleep and may complain of acute burning in the shoulder, or in the case of degenerative rotator cuff disease, a dull pain in the area.

A chiropractic physical examination is helpful to diagnose bursitis. The UNC site says that a practitioner may find that skin overlying a subacromial bursa is warm to touch and tender to palpation. MayoClinic.org, in a section on diseases and conditions, lists the following common symptoms of bursitis:  

  • Ache and/or stiffness
  • Pain when moved or pressed
  • Redness and swelling
  • Disabling joint pain
  • Fever

There are various forms of bursitis in the area of the hip joints, resulting in a difference in symptoms, says a Loyola University Health System Web page explaining symptoms of hip bursitis. Trochanteric bursitis causes pain on the side of the hip, while ischial bursitis inflicts the lower hip, where you sit down.

“Pressing on your hip or turning your hip and leg inward as you flex your hip may make the pain worse,” says the Loyola site. “The pain may be worse when getting up from a deep chair or getting out of a car. You may have trouble sleeping because the pain may be worse at night. Pressing on your groin may make the pain worse.” 

Some patients hear a “pop” or “snap” as they flex or pull their legs up, and walking up stairs may be harder to do.

Causes:

According to the UNC site, subacromial bursitis may be caused by:

  • Weakness in the upper extremities
  • Overuse of the shoulder
  • Degeneration of muscle tendons
  • Calcium deposition
  • Tears of the surrounding rotator cuff
  • Acute trauma or repetitive injury to the shoulder
  • Frequent overhead lifting
  • Frequent forceful pulling

Causes may involve more than trauma, such as the presence of scoliosis, gout, infection, or patients may contract the condition following surgeries such as hip arthroplasty or hip joint replacement, according to Loyola University Health System.

Choose Your Ammunition

Predictably, patients recover more quickly when they take time to rest, allowing the bursa to heal. Resting your hip can decrease pain and swelling and may prevent the bursitis from getting worse. Avoid activities that increase the pain, such as walking up stairs. Sitting on a cushioned chair or foam donut may help decrease the pain, after which you may begin normal, slow movements.

Your chiropractor can advise you about appropriate activities to minimize the window required for healing. He or she may suggest the use of ice to cause blood vessels to constrict. This decreases inflammation, which causes the swelling, pain, and redness.

For hip bursitis, your chiropractor may choose treatment that includes massage to stretch the tissue and bring heat to the injury, which increases blood flow, says the Loyola site. After the bursitis heals, your chiropractor will likely suggest exercises to stretch your hip muscles and tendons and strengthen them.

Averting Attack

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Think of it as war rationing. After the onset of bursitis, you may have recurring flare-ups, so changes may be needed to prevent further pain. Consulting your chiropractor will aid you in pain management and monitoring any shifts in lifestyle you need.

When suffering from subacromial bursitis, your best defense involves avoidance, says the UNC Family Medicine site. Doctors suggest you avoid aggravating factors such as carrying heavy objects and repeatedly elevating your arms. They also suggest using both arms for lifting and pulling heavy loads on wheels.

If hip bursitis is a bigger enemy, there are effective measures you can take to minimize damage there as well, according to Loyola, which suggests staying off your feet, or at least wearing cushioned shoes and avoiding hard surfaces. Bending at the knees will take pressure off hips, and maintaining a healthy weight is advised.

Your chiropractor can assist you with nutritional goals and choosing an exercise program. He or she may suggest herbal supplements to help with the healing process also. Don’t make changes, including running or heavy exercise, without consulting your healthcare professional first.

You don’t want to be the only one from your unit facing the enemy. There’s no service medal for showing bravery in the battle with bursitis.


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