Our joints all have protective fluid-filled sacs which are called bursae, and each bursa provides cushioning to the muscles, tendons, and bones of a joint. Trauma to the elbow joint can cause irritation and inflammation to the bursa, which is called elbow bursitis.
When the bursa in the elbow is irritated, it tends to swell, and it is excruciating for the patient. Fortunately, there are several treatment options for an inflamed bursa, including the following:
The RICE treatment refers to its acronym: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This is a home-based treatment; if this does not reduce the pain and swelling in your elbow within a week or two, see an orthopedist for an evaluation.
- Through resting the elbow, you can avoid further swelling of the bursa since one of its causes is prolonged pressure.
- Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes several times per day, and make sure the ice pack is first wrapped in a towel to prevent frostbite on your elbow.
- Apply gentle compression to the elbow in order to provide support and reduce swelling.
- Elevation will help to reduce swelling by encouraging proper blood flow away from the inflammation site via gravity. Keep your elbow above the level of your heart if possible.
In addition to RICE, you can take over-the-counter pain medications to quell the pain. The RICE method is recommended as long as the bursitis was not caused by an infection.
A steroid injection can work to reduce your elbow pain as long as infection did not cause bursitis, or when it is aseptic. Before a steroid injection, your doctor will numb the area. The steroid will then be injected into the bursa to reduce the pain and swelling.
Doctors may use varying types and dosages of steroids. A corticosteroid is the most commonly used steroid for this type of pain-relief injection.
If an infection caused bursitis, fluid aspiration must be done. A doctor will insert a needle into the bursa to remove the fluid. The doctor will also prescribe antibiotics to help eliminate the infection.
Your doctor may recommend surgery if a bacterial infection caused bursitis or if it is septic. During the procedure, your doctor will remove the pus buildup in the bursa. After the removal of pus, the surgeon will clean the wound thoroughly to avoid further infection. A drainage tube will be used to drain unnecessary fluid from the bursa.
The operation is an outpatient procedure, and it does not necessarily require general anesthesia. After the surgery, you can go home and continue the treatment of the wound via the doctor’s instructions.
Orthopedic Doctors in San Antonio
Bursitis of the elbow is fairly easy to treat. Our medical team at the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine is dedicated to giving you the best care for your orthopedic injuries or musculoskeletal pain, including bursitis and arthritis.
If you have any concerns regarding your elbow or would like to schedule a consultation, contact us today by calling us at (210) 692-7400 or fill out our appointment request form online now. We look forward to helping you get well and back to enjoying your active lifestyle!