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Introduction to Bursitis

Chronic bursitis is a chronic inflammation of the bursa, a sac of lubricating fluid with one purpose- reduction of friction between the tendons and the bones/joints. Chronic bursitis develops as a consequence of recurring activity that places too much strain on the joint.

Unlike acute bursitis that commonly lasts only for a few days chronic bursitis represents a long lasting condition. It may linger for several weeks and frequently reoccurs. In case chronic bursitis is left untreated (particularly bursitis in the shoulder) there is an increased chance for calcium deposits. The presence of these deposits is responsible for permanent stiffness of the affected joint.

Chronic bursitis typically features with severe pain, swelling and restriction of movement of the affected joint. It generally affects the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, base of the thumb, hip, knee and Achilles tendon.

Treatment for Chronic Bursitis

The pain caused by chronic bursitis can be alleviated with hot and cold compresses. This treatment can be applied at home but one must pay attention and never apply cold compresses for longer than 20 minutes. Furthermore, it is essential never to apply ice directly to the skin but first wrap it in clean cloth.

The affected area must not be under stress and one is due to restrict all movements until the pain subsides. Rest accelerates reduction of swelling. Hence, the pain decreases. Furthermore, patients suffering from chronic bursitis may significantly benefit from physical therapy. A well experienced therapist will teach a patient how to perform specific exercises that will help a person get his/ her joints back in shape.

Surgery is reserved for patients suffering from chronic bursitis who simply do not respond to conservative treatment. The doctor may recommend incision and drainage of the inflamed bursa. Prior the procedure the skin is numbed with an anesthetic and a surgeon performs a small incision, opens the bursa and drains the fluid. Furthermore, in some patients chronic bursitis leads to hardening of the bursa and the bursa may also become stiff and calcificated. In such cases the entire bursa needs to be surgically removed. This type of surgery is generally performed in an outpatient clinic and patients return to their every day activities within 7-10 days.

Apart from traditional medicine some patients opt for alternative medicine. It is essential to consult a doctor prior choosing any type of alternative medicine and intake of supplements and herbs. Supplements and herbs may, for example, interfere with other medications a person is taking.

The prognosis of acute bursitis is much better that a chronic form of the disease. Still, both of them are successfully treated.

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