Medical Treatment for Bursitis & Tendinitis in Adults
Many people find that a few weeks of rest, pain relief medication, and physical therapy are all they need to relieve symptoms of bursitis or tendinitis. Our specialists also offer acupuncture—in which very thin needles are used to stimulate specific points on the body—onsite at NYU Langone to relieve pain and encourage healing.
Your doctor determines the most effective treatment plan and recovery timeline based on the severity of symptoms, the location of the injury, and your lifestyle goals.
Rest, Ice, Heat, Compression, and Elevation
Doctors recommend a combination of rest, ice, compression, and elevation, called the RICE regimen, for several weeks after diagnosis. The time frame for RICE treatment varies depending on the severity of the injury and is determined by your doctor.
For the body to heal, the affected part of the body must be rested. This may include resting: tendons, which are tough cords of tissue that connect muscle to bone; bursae, or thin, fluid-filled sacs that act as cushions between tendons and bones; and muscles. A splint, sling, or crutches may help you to keep the affected area immobile. Doctors may recommend immobilization for two or three weeks after diagnosis.
You are typically instructed to apply ice three times a day for 15 minutes at a time to reduce swelling during the first three days after the injury. After this, applying a heating pad or other heat source can increase blood flow to the injured area and speed healing.
During the first two days, wrapping a flexible bandage around the affected area may help reduce swelling. A bandage should be snug, but not so tight that you feel tingling or numbness. If bursitis or tendinitis affects a part of the body that can be elevated—such as a heel or knee—doing so three times a day for 15 minutes may help to reduce swelling.
Until inflammation in the bursa or tendon fully subsides, doctors recommend avoiding the activity that caused the injury as well as other activities that put stress on the affected part of the body. Returning to work or sports too soon greatly increases the risk that bursitis or tendinitis may return. Your doctor can determine when the area affected by bursitis or tendinitis has healed based on improvement in your symptoms.
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
Doctors may recommend over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, to reduce inflammation in the bursa and tendon and relieve pain. These medications are typically recommended for a few weeks while the body heals. If pain persists for longer than one month, continued use of NSAIDs should be monitored by a doctor.
After swelling and tenderness caused by bursitis or tendinitis have been relieved, doctors may recommend physical therapy to rebuild strength and flexibility in the affected muscles and tendons. It’s common for muscles and tendons to weaken after even a short period of inactivity. Until they are properly reconditioned, these tissues are prone to further injury.
Physical therapists at NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation can customize a routine of simple exercises you can perform at home. Our orthopedic physical therapists offer additional approaches, such as heat and massage therapies, to aid in healing.
Most of the time, physical therapy can begin as soon as you can walk without pain, but timing depends on the severity of symptoms, the location of the affected bursa or tendon, and the length of time symptoms have been present. NYU Langone doctors recommend four to six weeks of physical therapy, at which time doctors assess the injury and determine whether additional therapy is needed for a full recovery.
Acupuncture is a therapeutic technique in which doctors insert very thin needles into various points on the surface of the body. By targeting specific points that are believed to correspond to nerve pathways, acupuncture may stimulate healing by increasing blood flow. Acupuncture may also prompt the body to release endorphins, which are natural pain relievers.
Our licensed acupuncturists administer this therapy in a relaxed setting at NYU Langone. Acupuncture needles are left in place for 20 to 40 minutes. For optimal results, doctors may recommend several acupuncture sessions.