Inflammation of the olecranon bursa often causes pain and swelling at the back of the elbow joint that increases when pressure is applied.
This bursa can become inflamed when it is exposed to trauma or injury during falls on the elbow and to infection from scraps or cuts on the skin covering the joint. Repeated excessive pressure and/or friction, such as leaning on a table top at work, may cause this bursa to become inflamed producing excessive swelling and elbow pain in this area.
Subtendinous olecranon bursitis is much less common. This type of elbow bursitis results from excessive friction between the triceps tendon and olecranon. This may result, for example, from repeated flexion-extension of the forearm which occurs during certain assembly line jobs, and is one of many repetitive motion type injuries. The pain is most severe during the flexion of the forearm because of pressure exerted on the inflamed subtendinous olecranon bursa by the triceps tendon.
Elbow bursitis is also referred to as olecranon bursitis, dialysis elbow, student's elbow, water on the elbow, swellbow, dart thrower's elbow, lunger's elbow, or miner's elbow.
Elbow Bursitis Symptoms
The bursa that protects the olecranon at your elbow joint lies between the skin and elbow bones. If you are suffering from olecranon bursitis you will usually be experiencing the following conditions:
A lump at the back of the elbow is usually the first sign of elbow bursitis. Once swelling is noticed it is advisable that you begin cold treatments to reduce swelling and inflammation and see you doctor to rule out infectious bursitis.
Redness, Warmth, and Tenderness
If there is a cut or scrap on the elbow near the bursa, bacteria may enter the bursa and cause it to become infected. Signs of septic bursitis include redness, warmth, tenderness, and usually a fever. If you have these symptoms be sure to see a doctor promptly so he/she can prescribe antibiotics.
Although you may experience bursitis without pain, elbow bursitis can cause pain at the tip of the elbow because the bursa pushes on nerve endings around the joint. Pain increase when bending and straightening the elbow or pushing directly on the bursa.
Limited Range of Motion
As the bursa swells a visible bump becomes obvious at the tip of the elbow. Inside the elbow, the enlarged bursa decreases the space for the bone joints to move freely during flexion and extension. This limits the range of motion in the elbow and can prevent you from doing daily tasks easily.
Elbow Bursitis Causes
There are a number of things that can indirectly cause bursitis such as repetitive use or overuse from work or sporting activities, a cut or injury to the elbow, acute injuries, and aging. Over the years your muscles will start to lose their mass and strength, your tissues will lose their elasticity and degenerate, making you more susceptible to injury. Weakened muscles and/or tendons or injuries to your elbow, wrist, forearm or shoulder can instigate bursitis. You are at increased risk of suffering from this condition if your work and/or lifestyle require repetitive use of your elbow. In most bursitis cases, the cause is from one of three sources:
Trauma to the Elbow
Trauma causes inflammation of the elbow bursa, resulting in a widening of the blood vessels in the bursa. This widening allows proteins and various fluids into the bursae that are not supposed to be there, resulting in a reactive swelling from the bursae.
Until these foreign materials leave the bursa or are broken down by the bursae defense system, the swelling and pain will remain.
Chronic trauma will occur if there is mild trauma to the elbow that occurs repetitively. For instance, a hard elbow rest while driving frequently or straining the elbow frequently while throwing darts.
Acute trauma to the elbow means a direct blow to the elbow. In such cases, blood may leak into the bursa of the elbow and cause swelling and pain.
Some people with diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout or scleroderma may contract bursitis from crystalline deposits in the joints. Although not much is known about how this process happens, it is common knowledge that Uric acid is a normal byproduct of daily metabolism. If your are diagnosed with gout then you are unable to break down this uric acid properly, leading to crystalization of this excess acid which deposits in joints'a painful symptom that can often lead to bursitis.
Infection (Septic Bursitis)
The closer the bursa is to the surface of the skin, the more likely the chance of infection from specific bacteria that are commonly found on the surface of the skin. This bacterial infection is known as septic bursitis and common bacteria that create this infection are known as Staphylococcus Epidermis (or Staphylococcus Aureus). Septic bursitis occurs most commonly in men (85% of all cases occur in men) and you are at higher risk of contracting this if you:
- have Diabetes
- have recently experienced Trauma
- are undergoing Steroid Treatments
- have Alcoholism
- have a certain Kidney Condition
To determine if the elbow bursa is infected, the doctor will drain the bursa and have the fluid tested. If you have septic bursitis it must be treated with antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.
Treating Your Elbow Bursitis
Relieving the symptoms of bursitis initially focuses on keeping the pressure off the bursa. Surgery may be required if your bursa irritation is a result of a bone formation problem, such as a bone spur. If your bursitis is caused by an infection (septic bursitis), the doctor will probably drain the bursa sac with a needle and prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. For non-infectious bursitis, the preliminary treatment starts with cold therapy.
The most important factor in healing bursitis is resting your elbow and reducing the amount of pressure you put on your elbows throughout the day. During your recovery you will probably have to modify or avoid the activities that stress your bursa until your pain and inflammation settle.
Treatments should involve decreasing swelling, relieving stress on your elbow, correcting any biomechanical dysfunction such as a bone spur, treating scar tissue, and then restoring strength and movement in your elbow joint. Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™ (BFST®) is recommended once inflammation has been calmed to heal the bursa and surrounding tissue faster and reduce the risk of bursitis returning.
Freezie Wrap® Cold Therapy
To decrease inflammation and relieve the pain of olecranon bursitis doctor's recommend cold therapy.
Applying cold to your inflamed bursa will help decrease the swelling and redness around it. Cold therapy will also help to numb the pain in your olecranon joint and help to control the inflammation. In addition, the deep cooling effect provided by the Elbow Freezie Wrap® reduces tissue damage.
The Elbow Freezie Wrap® uses a supercharged cooling gel pack, that chills in the fridge, not in the freezer like ice or other freezer packs, giving you deep cold therapy without the risk of 'cold burns' or cryoburn.
Cooling your inflamed olecranon bursa can be done as needed throughout the day. The Elbow Freezie Wrap® can be used to apply cold in a safe, convenient and effective way - and the gel pack is reusable. The gel pack sits gently over the inflamed bursa to reduce swelling and redness.
The wrap is soft and adjustable so it fits your body properly, without irritating the bursa, and allows you to adjust the compression. This is important when treating an inflamed bursa because too much pressure can cause you further pain. You control how much pressure the bursa receives so you can benefit from the compression to hold the cold where you need it, without increasing your pain.
Applying cold to your tender bursa and elbow joint is the first step in treating your bursitis.
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Inferno Wrap® Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™
Once the inflammation of your bursitis has been reduced with cold therapy it is time to improve blood flow and improve the elasticity of your surrounding soft tissue. Your body needs a fresh supply of blood to improve the health of your tissue and get your olecranon bursa back to normal.
Unfortunately, when you are suffering from bursitis it can be painful to bend your arm or reach for something. When you limit movement in your elbow because of the pain the blood flow is reduced, starving your tissue of the necessary oxygen and nutrients.
The trick is to find a way to increase blood flow without causing pain and/or further inflaming the bursae. This is where Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™, or BFST®, becomes a powerful tool.
BFST® compliments your body's natural healing process by promoting blood flow while you give your elbow the rest it needs.
The Elbow Inferno Wrap® uses a patented process to generate the same energy that is part of the sun's spectrum of light, the same energy that is necessary to all living things for optimum health. The energy emitted from the Energy Web® stimulates blood flow to your elbow, more than your body would ever be able to generate on it's own. This gives your body the boost it needs to continue the reconditioning process. The healing energy reaches deep into your olecranon bursa to speed tissue repair, whisk away the toxins and dead cells, and rejuvenate the tissue in your elbow for improved elasticity.
Click Here to learn more about how Inferno Wrap® BFST® works
With these easy-to-use, home therapies you will notice significantly reduced pain and an incredible improvement in your elbow pain and range of motion.
We recommend that you consult your doctor and/or physiotherapist before using any of our outstanding products, to make sure they're right for you and your condition.
Your doctor may aspirate your inflamed bursa. This involves removing the extra fluid that has built up with a needle. Sometimes, the fluid will be tested at a laboratory to rule out infection.
Very rarely, the olecranon bursa does not get better with conservative treatments and surgical removal may be necessary. Usually this is done by arthroscopy, which is a surgical procedure where tiny incisions are made and a pencil-sized camera is inserted into the elbow. A small shaver is inserted into another incision, and is used to remove the swollen bursa (referred to as a bursectomy). The surgeon will then look for any damage to the elbow and make repairs if necessary. This is also done to remove any bone spurs.
Recovery time for the surgery will depend on a number of different factors including your healing ability, diet, rest and how many procedures were done during surgery.
Post-op recovery time can be reduced with the use of cold compression and Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™ following surgery. Cold compression is recommend by doctors following surgery to treat your pain in a natural, non-addictive way and to reduce swelling. Once the incision has healed, speak with your doctor about the use of BFST®. BFST® encourages more oxygen and nutrients to flow to the area to speed healing and improve the strength of the soft tissue in your elbow.
NSAIDs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can be used if required to help manage your pain. However, these aren't recommended for long term use, as they can cause gastrointestinal difficulties and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Most of our customers find they no longer require NSAIDS once they begin using cold therapy and/or BFST® to treat their pain and heal their bursa.
Please be aware that this information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.