Complementary and Alternative Aid for Bursitis Pain

Complementary and Alternative Aid for Bursitis Pain

If you've ever experienced severe pain, swelling, and redness in your joints, you may have been feeling the effects of a condition known as bursitis. Bursitis occurs when the bursa, a sac inside every joint that acts as a cushion between the tendons and the bones, becomes inflamed. This may be the result of an infection, an injury, excess activity, or another condition such as arthritis or gout. Bursitis most frequently affects major joints, such as those in the shoulders, hips, knees, or elbows—tennis elbow is an example of bursitis. Often pain will get worse with movement, and may significantly restrict your range of motion in the affected joint. Conventional treatments include injecting a steroid directly into the bursa, and using pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and hot and cold packs. A splint or sling may be worn to keep the joint from moving. Exercises are usually recommended to gently increase the range of motion once pain has become manageable. Surgery is sometimes necessary in cases of chronic bursitis.

The primary role of complementary and alternative therapies is to reduce pain and inflammation as well as promote overall joint health.


Certain foods may encourage inflammation: try to avoid the saturated fats found in dairy and animal products. Other foods may reduce inflammation, such as the oils found in cold-water fish, nuts, and seeds. Be sure to incorporate some of these into your diet.

Adding the following dietary supplements to you diet may also help:

  • Glucosamine sulfate (500 mg two or three times a day) to promote connective tissue health.
  • Omega-3 oils (1,000 mg two or three times a day), such as flaxseed oil, to reduce inflammation.
  • Vitamin C with bioflavonoids (1,000 mg three times a day) to help repair connective tissues.
  • Bromelain (250 mg twice a day) to reduce inflammation.


Try one or more tinctures of the following anti-inflammatory herbs. Tinctures are preparations made from alcohol (or water and alcohol), containing an herb strength of 1 part herb to 5 parts solvent or 1 part herb to 10 parts solvent. For acute pain relief, try taking 15 drops every 15 minutes, for up to four doses; for general pain relief, take 30 drops four times a day.

  • Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
  • White willow (Salix alba)
  • Jamaican dogwood (Piscidia erythrina)
  • Turmeric (Curcuma longa)


Your homeopath may recommend "Traumeel" injections as an alternative to injecting steroids. Some other homeopathic remedies for bursitis are listed here. Usually the dose is 12X to 30C every one to four hours until symptoms improve. Be sure to consult an experienced homeopath for the correct remedy and potency for your individual needs.

  • Arnica is for bursitis that occurs after an injury to a joint.
  • Arnica gel is applied topically (to the skin) for short-term pain relief.
  • Ruta graveolons is for rheumatic pains in the joint.
  • Bellis perennis is for an injury accompanied by a great deal of bruising.


Acupuncture can be very effective at reducing joint pain, swelling, and inflammation.

If you think you have bursitis, visit your doctor for a full diagnosis. Also be sure to talk with your physician or pharmacist to best determine which herbal or nutritional supplements are for you. Some supplements should not be taken if you have certain medical conditions or are taking particular prescription medications.

Most cases of bursitis can be prevented altogether by avoiding overusing a joint, resting between periods of activity, and making sure to stretch and warm up before strenuous activity. Symptoms usually resolve within one to two weeks, but will likely recur if the joint continues to be overused.


Integrative Medicine Access: Professional Reference to Conditions, Herbs & Supplements. Newton, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.

Review Date: June 2000
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

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