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Bursitis: what is it and how can massage help?

What is bursitis?
Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursae. Bursae are small sacs of synovial fluid throughout the body. The bursae primarily rest where muscles and tendons slide across bones, to allow smooth movement of the joint.
When inflammation in the bursae occurs the tracking of joints, muscles and tendons becomes difficult and painful. This can result in stiffened muscle.

Hips, shoulders, elbows and knees are the most commonly affected.

What causes bursitis?
A number of things can cause bursitis. Most commonly repetitive movement and excessive pressure on the joint. Other causes include trauma to the joint like a knock or fall, autoimmune disorders, infection and medication.

Who gets bursitis?
Anyone that has had a joint trauma is at risk of developing bursitis. Also those in professions that require repetitive motions or pressure on the joint, such as cleaners, students, trade 2102_LayCarpet_25workers, and athletes particularly in impact sports such as football, rugby and roller derby are all at risk.
Those with other inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and systemic lupus can also be at risk.

How is bursitis treated?
Your GP may refer you for an ultrasound scan to diagnose the inflammation. They are also likely to prescribe a course of NSAIDs. Once the inflammation has subsided physiotherapy and soft tissue therapy is recommended.

Your GP may recommend a cortisone injection into the sight of the bursae for persistent inflammation.

Qualified therapist doing pressure point massage on a womans hip

Qualified therapist doing pressure point massage on a womans hip

How can massage help?
Although massage cannot cure bursitis, it can help alleviate the muscle pain and tension that is either a result of the inflammation or the cause. A massage therapist will work to release taught bands and trigger points in the agonist and antagonist muscles; above, below and opposite the site of the bursitis.

What can I do to help alleviate bursitis?
In the 72 hours following the trauma or onset of pain use the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) first aid for the injury. The less you can use the joint, the better. This will help stop inflammation from getting worse. Ice will also help reduce the inflammation and pain.

Once inflammation has eased, massage, gentle stretching and heat to the surrounding muscles will help ease soft tissue pain.

The once soft tissue pain has eased strengthening exercises can be used to help rehabilitate the joint and the muscles around it.