How to Treat Bursitis: Exercise, Cold Compress, Medications, and More


Bursitis is a condition that occurs when the bursae, or small fluid-filled sacs, become inflamed. The bursae are located between bones, tendons, and muscles. Bursitis often causes pain, tenderness, and swelling in the affected area. It can be caused by repetitive motion, overuse of the affected joint, arthritis, and other medical conditions. Treatment for bursitis can vary depending on the severity of the inflammation and pain.

Exercise and Physical Therapy

Exercise and physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles around the affected joint. This can reduce the risk of bursitis because stronger muscles provide more stability and protection for the joint. Recommended exercises may include stretching, range of motion activities, and strengthening exercises. Working with a physical therapist can help ensure that exercises are done correctly and safely. A physical therapist can also modify exercises if needed.

Cold Compress

Applying a cold compress to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and pain associated with bursitis. Ice packs should be wrapped in a thin towel and applied for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, several times a day. It is important to not apply ice directly to the skin as this could cause frostbite. An alternate option is to use a bag of frozen vegetables such as peas or corn.


Resting the affected area can help reduce pain and inflammation. It is important to avoid activities that put stress on the affected joint or cause pain. Resting the affected area for a few days may be enough to relieve symptoms. If symptoms persist, however, it is important to seek medical advice.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen can help reduce pain and inflammation. These medications can be taken orally or applied topically to the affected area. Corticosteroids may also be prescribed to help reduce inflammation. Side effects of these medications can include stomach upset, nausea, and dizziness. It is important to talk to a doctor before taking any medications.

Cortisone Injections

Cortisone injections can help reduce inflammation and pain in the affected area. The injection is usually done in a doctor’s office and typically takes less than 10 minutes. The injection can provide relief for up to several months. However, there are risks associated with cortisone injections, including infection, nerve damage, and tissue damage.


In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat bursitis. Surgery is typically reserved for severe cases that do not respond to other treatments. The type of surgery will depend on the location and severity of the bursitis. Common types of surgery for bursitis include arthroscopy, open debridement, and excision. Surgery carries risks such as infection and bleeding.


Bursitis can cause pain and discomfort in the affected area. While rest and avoiding activities that put stress on the joint is important, there are several treatments that can help reduce inflammation and pain. These treatments include exercise and physical therapy, cold compresses, medications, cortisone injections, and surgery. It is important to talk to a doctor to determine the best treatment plan for each individual case.

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