Do you have a swollen, red joint that stiffens and aches when you move it, and hurts when it’s touched? You may have bursitis, an inflammatory condition that affects injured or overused joints. The good news is there are many ways to treat bursitis, and the condition typically does not last long. Find out how to treat bursitis, and how chiropractic care can fit into your overall treatment plan.  

What Is Bursitis?

Bursitis is a condition that occurs when a bursa sac becomes irritated or inflamed. Bursa sacs are located throughout the body to provide cushioning between muscles, bones, tendons, and skin. With treatment, bursitis usually subsides within a few days to a few weeks, although flare-ups are common. 

Symptoms of bursitis include: 

  • Red, swollen joint
  • Difficulty moving the affected joint
  • Aches and pains in the joint, especially while it’s being moved or touched
  • Fever and chills if the bursa becomes infected


There are several areas where bursitis commonly appears:

  • Achilles tendon (Retrocalcaneal Bursitis)
  • Ankle (Medial Malleolar Bursitis)
  • Elbows (Olecranon Bursitis)
  • Heels (Subcutaneous Calcaneal Bursitis)
  • Hips (Trochanteric Bursitis)
  • Knees (Prepatellar Bursitis, Infrapatellar Bursitis, or Pes Anserine Bursitis)
  • Shoulder (Subacromial Bursitis)

There is also septic bursitis, which occurs when the bursitis is actually caused by an infection. This usually happens as a result of an injury that left a bursa punctured and exposed to bacteria. You can tell if a bursa is infected because it will often leak yellow or white fluid. There is also an excessively large swollen red fluid sac over the affected joint, and you may end up with a fever. In this case you should urgently seek the aid of your doctor to receive the proper medication and treatment before the infection spreads.    

In some cases, an existing case of bursitis becomes infected. If this happens, you may experience any of the following: 

  • Sharp and severe joint pain, to the point where you nearly cannot move the joint
  • Extreme redness, inflammation, and bruising around the injured joint
  • A fever, chills, and an overall sensation of illness

Contact your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms.

What Causes Bursitis? 

Bursitis can occur when you undergo an injury or trauma to a joint. It is also known as the “working person’s disease” because it often occurs as a result of repetitive motion. If you have an occupation or hobby that requires you to perform repetitive movements, you are at a higher risk of developing bursitis. The condition also tends to affect adults who are older than 40.

Activities that commonly cause bursitis include: 

  • Gardening
  • Manual labor  
  • Playing an instrument
  • Sports, particularly golf, baseball, and tennis

If you are at risk for bursitis, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself against the condition. Taking breaks, resting your joints on cushions during repetitive motions, maintaining good posture, and stretching adequately before exercise or sports can help prevent bursitis. It’s also helpful to eat well and avoid staying seated for long periods of time.

Bursitis vs Arthritis

Many people confuse bursitis with arthritis because both affect the joints and both involve inflammation. Here are some of the key differences between the two conditions. 

  • Symptoms: While bursitis and arthritis both involve swelling, aches, and decreased mobility, bursitis often involves redness in the affected joint, while arthritis does not. 
  • Pain: When you touch a joint affected with bursitis, the pain is typically much sharper than if you touch a joint affected by arthritis.
  • Cure: Arthritis is a chronic disease, so it can be managed, but not cured. Bursitis, on the other hand, usually lasts from a few days to a few weeks and can be cured with proper treatment.
  • Location: Bursitis affects the bursa in a joint, while arthritis affects cartilage and bone.

If you are unsure which condition you have, your doctor can help narrow it down and recommend treatment.  

Bursitis Treatment Options

Once you are diagnosed with bursitis, there are a number of treatment options available to you. Most of the time, more than one option will be recommended to put you on a quick path to healing. Common treatments for bursitis include: 

  • Antibiotics in the case of an infected bursa
  • Anti-inflammatory pain reliever
  • Warm compress or a warm bath to decrease pain
  • Ice to control swelling
  • Chiropractic care and physical therapy to manage pain, decrease swelling, and improve mobility; physical therapy can also build muscle strength to promote healing and prevent another episode of bursitis in the same area
  • Lots of rest 
  • Steroid injections to address severe swelling
  • Surgery to drain the bursa in severe cases (this is quite rare)

Depending on the kind of bursitis you have and the severity, your doctor can make recommendations for your recovery.  

How to Treat Bursitis with Chiropractic Care

Once you are diagnosed with bursitis, talk to your doctor about including chiropractic care in your treatment plan. Chiropractic care can be quite effective in the following areas:

  • Relieving pain and swelling 
  • Improving range of motion
  • Reducing the risk of flare-ups 

Because the goal of chiropractic adjustments is to realign a misaligned spine, thus allowing for easier communication throughout the nervous system and increased mobility for the body overall, many bursitis patients turn to chiropractic care for a hands-on, drug-free approach to pain management. 

Massage therapy may also be an effective treatment option, which your chiropractor can perform to relax the muscles and help more blood flow to the aching joint.

Your chiropractor can also help you narrow down the cause of the bursitis, and can determine if just one joint is affected or if there are other factors involved. For example, maybe other muscles are suffering due to the bursitis. Or maybe a specific misalignment contributed to the condition in the first place. This in-depth approach will inform your chiropractor’s treatment plan to help you recover thoroughly and work to prevent bursitis flare-ups in the future.  

Just make sure you clearly communicate to your chiropractor about the location of the bursitis. A swollen joint should never be adjusted, or the inflammation and pain can actually worsen. 

Additionally, if you have an infection in the bursa or septic bursitis, talk to your doctor before seeing a chiropractor. It may be necessary to treat the infection before undergoing any adjustments.

When utilized in conjunction with other treatments prescribed by your doctor, chiropractic care is an effective, all-natural way to manage bursitis symptoms and put you on the road to recovery. 

At All Star Chiropractic, our goal is to help our patients recover from back pain, neck pain, lack of mobility, joint issues, range of motion issues, and more—without the use of prescription drugs. Our chiropractors are trained to treat a range of health issues, including bursitis. We believe in taking a holistic “whole-body” approach to your health. We don’t want to just temporarily fix your pain—we want to determine and treat the root cause so you live an active and pain-free life.

Call one of our locations today to schedule an appointment, or to learn more about how chiropractic care can help you.