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Bursitis: What Acupuncture Can Do for You
By: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM

Bursitis is a painful medical condition that develops when the bursae become inflamed. These small fluid-filled sacs provide lubrication and cushion to the joints, thereby softening the impact between bones, tendons and muscles. With over 150 bursae throughout the body, inflammation can occur near any joint. The shoulders, elbows and hips are most often affected, as these joints perform frequent repetitive motion.

Those with bursitis may experience:

  • Painful or stiff joints (if severe, joint may even feel 'frozen')
  • Pain when touched in affected area
  • Exertion of the affected area
  • Swollen and red joints

Often the culprits are consistent, repetitive activities or holding an awkward position for too long. This may include events such as leaning on your elbows for too long or working as a dog-walker and constantly being on your feet. Other causes of bursitis include injury, trauma and infection. Sometimes a person may already suffer from an inflammatory condition such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout, and this can produce symptoms of bursitis. Although anyone can develop this condition, it becomes more likely as one ages.

If you find yourself suffering from any of these symptoms, or if you have already received a diagnosis of bursitis, you may want to consider making an appointment with your acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner. At times symptoms disappear after a few days or weeks with proper treatment, especially if acted on right away. However, it is not uncommon for symptoms to present again in what is known as a 'flare-up.' Your practitioner can address the underlying cause of your bursitis and provide treatment if a flare-up occurs.

The best thing you can do at home is rest and protect the affected area. In some cases it is appropriate to apply heat in the form of a heating pad or a heat lamp. Your acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner can help discern if this is the right course of action after he or she has determined the cause of your symptoms and whether bursitis is strictly the result of overusing a particular joint, or if you also suffer from a disease like rheumatoid arthritis which can potentially cause problems all over the body. Regardless, your practitioner will work with you to establish an acupuncture treatment that is designed to address pain and swelling associated with either condition.

Not only does treatment seek to mitigate symptoms in the affected area, it also aims to relieve areas of the body that are indirectly impacted by bursitis. For example, if you have bursitis in one of your knees, it may cause you to put extra pressure on the unaffected knee and overuse its muscles.

If you prefer not to use pharmaceutical drugs or wish to reduce your dosage, you can discuss this with your acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner. Once the root cause is determined, treatment can focus on resolving that issue and continue with addressing any pain, swelling or redness of the joint.

Find an Acupuncturist near you to learn how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help manage your symptoms!

About the Author:   Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.