WHAT IS BURSITIS?
Bursitis is the inflammation or irritation of the bursa. The bursa is a sac filled with lubricating fluid, located between tissues such as bone, muscle, tendons, and skin, that decreases rubbing, friction, and irritation.
Solomon’s Seal tincture is especially effective in treating bursitis, as discussed thoroughly later in this article. Its properties reduce inflammation of affected tissues, restore fluids to bursa and synovial glands, increases lubrication in joint areas, especially those affected by osteoarthritis, and helps to decalcify joints. Its known plasticity effect helps to restore scar tissue to near original condition, thereby aiding tendons, ligaments and muscles.
If you suffer from bursitis, this educational article discusses causes, signs and symptoms, prevention, self-care (most bursitis can be treated without invasive medical intervention or drugs), and finally, alternative treatment methods, including the use of Solomon’s Seal.
There are more than 150 bursae in your body. These often tiny, fluid-containing sacs lubricate and cushion pressure points, thereby preventing friction at tissue sites where tendons or muscles pass over bony prominences near joints, such as the elbow. The function of a bursa is to facilitate movement and reduce friction between moving parts. They help you move without pain. When they become inflamed, movement or pressure is painful. The resulting condition is called bursitis.
Bursitis can vary with each person, as it strikes the areas you use and irritate the most. It is more common in adults over 40 years old, athletes and certain occupations. This is why bursitis most often affects the shoulder, elbow or hip joint areas. But you can also have bursitis by your knee, heel and even in the base of your big toe. Each of these locations contains bursae that can become inflamed.
CAUSES OF BURSITIS
Bursitis is most often caused by repetitive, minor impact on the area, or from a sudden, more serious injury, all of which irritate the bursae around a joint. Age also plays a role and is most common in adults over 40 years of age. This is because as tendons age they are able to tolerate stress less, are less elastic, and are easier to tear. Below are three main categories to identify activity sources of bursitis.
Stress or Direct Trauma to a Joint
Stress or direct trauma to a joint, such as with repeated bumping or prolonged pressure from kneeling can cause irritation of the bursa in that joint area. Similarly, poor stretching or conditioning before exercise can also lead to bursitis. Consider how these traumatic experiences can cause bursitis:
- Banging your elbow on a hard surface when taking a fall, as on ice, pavement or a floor. This may be a result of an accident or a sports/recreational activity like ice skating, ice hockey, basketball, etc.
- Banging your knee on a hard surface when taking a fall. Diving for a tennis or handball shot; falling off a skateboard or bicycle; falling off a ladder.
- Banging your knee in an automobile accident.
- Hitting your shoulder hard against a hard surface like a wall or the ground.
- Hitting your heal or toe against a hard surface in a sports activity, rock climbing, boulder hopping, hiking, etc.
- Kneeling on unpadded knees for hours when gardening, scrubbing a floor, etc.
An abnormal or poorly placed bone or joint (such as length differences in your legs or arthritis in a joint) can put added stress on a bursa sac, causing bursitis. Stress or inflammation from other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, psoriatic arthritis, thyroid disorders, or unusual medication reactions may also increase a person’s risk. In addition, an infection can occasionally lead to inflammation of a bursa.
A profession, trade or recreational activity may have associated with it certain motions of the joints performed repetitively.
- “Miners’ elbow” results from swinging a pick. Shoveling, raking, painting, scrubbing or carpentry are also activities that can cause irritation of the bursa at the joint.
- You may get a similar inflammation of the elbow by pushing a vacuum cleaner back and forth.
- Throwing a baseball, swinging a tennis racket (“tennis elbow”) or a golf club — each of these, when repeated, especially at one interval (i.e. when practicing extensively), are other examples of repetitive motions that may lead to bursitis or tendonitis of the elbow or shoulder.
- Simple repeated leaning on your elbows could lead to bursitis over the tip of your elbow. This may affect office workers, bookkeepers, or anyone who places their elbows over long periods of time on the arms of their chairs.
- “Weaver’s bottom” describes an inflamed bursa over the bone in the buttocks. It may result from sitting on a hard surface and swaying back and forth, such as sitting at a loom.
- The pressure from standing for a prolonged time may lead to bursitis of the hip, common among security guards, bellhops, kitchen, restaurant, factory or assembly-line workers.
- “Housemaid’s knee” — a soft, egg-shaped bump on the front of your knee — results from kneeling while installing tiles, scrubbing a floor, laying carpet, gardening or doing other activities that place pressure on your knees. (Some bursae at the knee and elbow lie just below the skin, so they are at higher risk of puncture injuries that can become infected and cause septic bursitis.)
- Another way that bursitis occurs is when compression of the bursa happens on a regular basis, such as a side sleeper who places a lot of shoulder or hip pressure when they lay down for long periods. In this case it would not take too much movement of this already compressed area to cause friction of the bursa.
- Prolonged incorrect posture at work or home can also affect bursa, as when sitting at a computer, craft table, or even in a chair watching television.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
If you have bursitis, you may notice:
- A dull achy pain or stiffness in the area of your elbow, hip, knee, shoulder, Achilles tendon, heel, big toe or other joint. The bursa surrounding joint areas can become stiffer the following day after activity. In the case of shoulder bursitis, there may be a loss of motion in the shoulder, called adhesive capsulitis or frozen shoulder.
- The pain is usually worse with movement and/or pressure during or after activity. Pain, as the most common symptom of bursitis, may build up gradually or be sudden and severe, especially if calcium deposits are present, as with osteoarthritis.
- The affected area feels swollen or is warm or hot to the touch. The resultant burning sensation surrounds the whole joint around the inflamed bursa. Movement may be limited without causing pain or discomfort.
- Occasional skin redness in the area of the inflamed bursa.
- In bursitis of the hip, there isn’t any visible swelling or skin redness because the bursae are located beneath some of your body’s bulkiest muscles. In this form of bursitis, pain is primarily over the greater trochanter, a jutting portion of your thighbone (femur) just below where the bone joins the hip.
- A fever (over 100F) accompanying the discomfort of the affected area.
To help prevent bursitis or reduce the severity of flare-ups:
- Warm up or stretch before physical activity. This is perhaps the most important preventive measure. Routine stretching the affected joint, as well as any tightened muscles above and below on a regular basis lengthens the tendon connections around the bursa. This will allow less friction to the tendon/bursa/bone connection.
- Strengthen your muscles to help protect the joint. Wait until the pain and inflammation are gone before starting to exercise a joint that has bursitis.
- Take frequent breaks from repetitive tasks. Alternate repetitive tasks with rest or other activities.
- Cushion your joint. Use cushioned chairs, foam for kneeling or elbow pads. Avoid resting your elbows on hard surfaces. Avoid shoes that don’t fit properly or that have worn-down heels.
- Don’t sit still for long periods. Get up and move about frequently.
- If your bursitis is caused by a chronic underlying condition, such as arthritis, it may recur despite these preventive measures.
To take care of your bursitis at home:
- For relief, take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve, Anaprox). Use as directed or in consultation with your medical advisor. Prolonged use can cause gastrointestinal problems, ulcers, heartburn, etc.
- Administer Solomon’s Seal tincture, as noted in this article, to restore tissue viability and moisture and to reduce inflammation. (Note: NSAIDs do not do this!)
- Apply ice packs. Use for 20 minutes several times a day during the first 2 days, or for as long as the joint area is warm to the touch.
- Apply heat. Use heat after the affected joint is no longer warm or red to help relieve muscle and joint pain and stiffness. But don’t overdo it. Heat shouldn’t be applied for more than 20 minutes at a time. Sometimes moist heat seems to penetrate deeper and give you more relief than dry heat.
- Perform stretching exercises. Stretching can help restore full range of motion.
- Elevate the affected joint. Raising a knee or an elbow can help reduce swelling.
- Keep pressure off your joint. Use an elastic bandage, sling or soft foam pad to protect a joint until the swelling goes down.
ALTERNATIVE FORMS OF TREATMENT (including Solomon’s Seal)
With proper care for the area, the pain in the bursa should lessen over three weeks, but it should be noted that the healing of the area continues and doesn’t even peak until at least six weeks following the initial injury. This is due to scar tissue formation, which initially acts like the glue to bond the tissue back together. Scar tissue will continue to form past six weeks in some cases and as long as a year in severe cases. After 6 months this condition is considered chronic and much more difficult to treat.
The initial approach to treating a bursitis is to support and protect the bursa by bracing any areas of the tendon that are being pulled on during use, as this will help stop bursa friction from occurring. It is important to loosen up the tendons, lessen the pain, minimize any bursa inflammation, and reduce the compression that can occur with lying down or sitting.
The Use of a Memory Foam Mattress to Reduce Compression
The pressure can be reduced while sleeping by using a softer bed topper like a memory foam mattress pad or even getting a new mattress that is composed with memory foam and/or latex foam. Memory foam and latex foam reduce compression because they are the only substances that conform with the bumps and curves of the body and can thereby reduce the pressure spot by more evenly disbursing the weight of the body. See memoryfoammattress.org for information on this subject.
The Use of Topical Creams to Reduce Inflammation & Pain
Reducing bursa inflammation and soothing the pain of bursitis can be done topically if a pain reliever has the ability to penetrate the skin barrier and contains anti-inflammatory agents. A topical formula will not only relieve pain or inflammation, but also dilate the blood vessels (if it contains natural menthol). This allows for relief of the bursitis, without causing any stiffening of the tissue.
Our Cortesia Solomon’s Seal Acute & Chronic Injury Salve is a very effective topical salve, especially when used with our Solomon’s Seal Tincture, or any of our Solomon’s Seal formulas. The salve contains Arnica, Calendula, Comfrey, Horsetail, Mullein, St. John’s Wort and Solomon’s Seal root. Unlike most topicals, however, the herbal properties in our salve permeate deeply through the skin layers into the cellular level of affected tissues.
The Use of MSM as an Anti-inflammatory
MSM, also known as Methyl Sulfonyl Methane, is a natural supplement working in tissue healing at a cellular level. It is a natural organic sulfur that comes from rainfall and is found naturally in the human body. It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects on the tissues. See all about Glucosamine and MSM for more information this supplement. (Ice can relieve inflammation, but will constrict the blood vessels and further stiffen the joint area. Cortisone injections can reduce inflammation, but unfortunately are very caustic and can cause a weakening of the tissue structure and a create more scar tissue).
Methods to Break Down Scar Tissue
After the scar tissue has begun to accumulate, it will be important to perform procedures that help break down the scar tissue in the affected joint, so as to let the tendon, bursa and muscle regain its normal flexibility and thereby lessen the friction to the bursa with joint movement. This will also help reduce the chance of further injury.
- Exercise is appropriate for breaking down scar tissue once the area has healed. However, it may further irritate the area during the initial stages if not done gently and gradually.
- Ultrasound and massage, may be safely used to accomplish scar tissue breakdown early on in the injury. Ultrasound uses sound waves that vibrate at such a fast level, that it cannot be felt with normal use. Ultrasound will cause an increase in circulation to the tissue and soften the scar tissue to allow it to further break down. Ultrasound can also be used as phonophoresis to help topical pain and nutrient solutions reach further down into the tissues by transporting them with the sound waves.
- Light stretches of the affected joint at early stages of rehabilitation may also be performed if they do not cause any further irritation to the area. However, often the real key is stretching the tight muscles and tendons that are below or above the bursa, as this will help normalize the movement and stop the rubbing of the tendon on the bursa sac. Physical therapy using range-of-motion exercises may be especially effective in treating cases of “frozen shoulder.”
THE EFFECTIVENESS OF SOLOMON’S SEAL
The body has what is called a plastic regeneration response to injuries, that is, the ability of the body to create a healing response that attempts to repair tissues following injury. This response is best seen in nature when a tree, for example, suffers a wound and forms a burl or scar tissue at that site.
The fascinating medical observation about Solomon’s Seal’s effectiveness is that the quality of repair to the injured tissue leaves little or no trace/evidence of scar tissue. Furthermore, Solomon’s Seal is also useful to fight and correct joint inflammation, tumors, as well as the acute and chronic swelling and edema that occur in the surrounding tissues following injury, or in the case of bursitis.
Solomon’s Seal also acts as an anti-inflammatory on almost all of the connective tissues. This is achieved by restoring proper lubrication that both supplements the deficiency and acts protectively to reduce friction on the tissues.
For the treatment of Bursitis, using Solomon’s Seal, we recommend the following four options in our line of tinctures, formulas, liniment and salve. Clients have repeatedly found relief and accelerated healing using one or more of the following: Regular Solomon’s Seal Tincture; Solomon’s Seal Tincture, Formula #3 – Cartilage & Tissue Repair; Solomon’s Seal Tincture, Formula #6 – All-in-One Deep Healing; Solomon’s Seal Acute & Chronic Injury Salve; Corteis Quick Relief Liniment (with Solomon’s Seal). These products work well in a 3-Step Method as described below.
THE 3-STEP METHOD:
COMBINING A LINIMENT, SALVE & TINCTURE FOR DEEP HEALING
When using herbal interventions or products such as a tincture, salve or liniment, we believe that a 3-Step Method is the best way to address many of the types of acute and chronic injuries mentioned above. (Note: This approach should never take the place of other practical strategies such as rest, support or elevation of injury, increasing water intake, adjustment of diet and nutrition, etc.)
Apply Cortesia Quick-Relief Liniment topically several times daily, as needed, in area(s) where pain or discomfort is occurring. Apply morning, afternoon, and evening OR before and after periods of activity and again before bed. This will provide short-term relief so that certain activities are less painful or so that you can get to sleep. It is important to firmly rub the liniment for several minutes to stimulate blood circulation in the effected tissue or joint area. This works very well for arthritic conditions or joint issues to increase flexibility. Of course, use lighter pressure for a sprain, bruise, very sore muscle, or painful area. For detailed information about the effectiveness of liniments, see our two articles on this Blog and our website: www.solomonsseal.net.
Apply Cortesia Acute and Chronic Injury Salve externally to injured area twice daily, morning and evening (apply after the liniment). Wrap or bandage as needed to protect clothing. This is an important long-term method of healing for strains, sprains, aches, symptoms of arthritis, damaged muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, etc. It perfectly compliments the liniment.
Note: After applying a liniment or salve, it is very useful to simply lay your hand(s) lightly over the affected area for a few minutes. This form of “touch healing therapy” is therapeutic (see our article Solomon’s Seal and the Healing Effects of Touch to understand more). You can feel the warm or cooling sensation of your injury; you can also mentally visualize healing currents.
Consider taking Cortesia Solomon’s Seal Tincture internally several times daily. Solomon’s Seal works to harmonize, feed, lubricate, and tighten or loosen (as needed) tendons, ligaments, muscles, attachments, and joints. It is a valuable connective tissue anti-inflammatory, and is known to help moderate the symptoms of osteoarthritis, repetitive use injuries, and connective tissue damage. Depending on your injury or condition, one of our Solomon’s Seal Formulas (described elsewhere on this site) may be appropriate — for example, the #1 Arthritis & Joint Repair, the #2 Bone-Building & Bone Repair, the #3 Cartilage & Tissue Repair, the #4 Pain & Tension Relief, or the #6 All-in-One Deep Healing Formula.
You can review these products and their ingredients, and order, at our website http://www.solomonsseal.net