May 25, 2024

I have been fighting with Bursitis in my shoulder. Usually I have no problems with my shoulders but during my Kidney donation surgery I apparently had my arm pulled over my head for a few hours while the surgeons were removing my kidney and stitching me back up (not a normal way to get bursitis…).

There are a lot of Bursas (or Bursae) in our body, about 160 of them but the knee, shoulder and elbow are the most common. Actually when you get Bursitis in your elbow it is called Tennis Elbow… it is that common.

How Did I get Bursitis?

I didn’t feel any pain the first day or so but as I was starting to pull up my body with my left arm I would grab onto the side rail of the hospital bed and try and as I did this a few times I eventually got a sharp pain in my shoulder.

bursitisFirst I thought I had a tendon pull, or a muscle tear, but there was no swelling that I could see. Eventually I really dove into the non-muscle parts of my shoulder through some diagrams and found this kind of picture.

As you can see from the pink sac of whatever This sits right on top of your shoulder bones and whenever you move you arms up or down in any direction the muscles and bones will slide on to of the Bursa.

In my case I was even sore when I did not move my arm at all. There was just a constant pain that actually ruined my sleep

How to Treat Bursitis

First of all there is an infection version called Septic Bursitis and this is when you get an infection in that area through a cut. This is fairly rare and most often really we will get bursitis from repetitive strain.

So in my case I had a couple of drugs that I was able to use. Tylenol, which I used, and Advil, which I used a bit but is hard on your kidneys.

Now that I only have one kidney I am going to have to be a bit more careful.

Also in the past I would have used a NSAID like Naproxen which is a great anti-inflammatory.

The other very important treatment for Bursitis is ice. I iced my shoulder 3 or 4 times a day. Usually when I have a pain or stressed muscle I will alternate ice and heat but in this case we really do not need the heat for anything and just use the ice and leave it at that.

In the end my Bursitis went mostly away within a week and if I was a bit healther I would expect 4 days or so. The trouble is that once that Bursa is inflamed you really have to be careful with it for at least a few weeks. Anytime you stress it make sure you ice afterwards to make sure you are not going to hurt it again.

I found this great info from Medical News Today, and I paraphrase them here

The NHS (National Health Service, UK) recommends PRICEM – a self-care management approach. PRICEM stands for:

  • Protection
  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation
  • Medication

Breaking PRICEM down into each part:

Protect the affected area – Some people place padding to protect the affected bursae from any blow.

Rest – Do not exercise or use the joints in the affected area unless you really have to. Let it rest. Bursitis is a condition that responds well to rest.

Ice packs – Ice packs can help reduce pain and inflammation. Make sure you do not place the ice directly on the skin, use a pack or towel. A small pack of frozen vegetables are ideal.

Raise the affected area – If you can, lift the affected area, raise it; less blood will gather there. This may help reduce the inflammation.

Painkillers – Ibuprofen is an effective painkiller for treating pain, it also reduces inflammation.

Steroids – For more severe symptoms the doctor may inject steroids into the affected area. Steroids block a body chemical called prostaglandin. Prostaglandin causes inflammation. Steroids may raise the patient’s blood pressure if used for too long, as well as increasing his/her risk of getting an infection. UK doctors are advised not to give more than three steroid injections in one year.

My Thoughts on These Bursitis Reccomendations

I did not find any good reason to use compression but in my case the elevation of my shoulder was a lot more comfortable then laying down flat.

Also the idea of a steroid injection is to me a very last resort. Although this almost always works for getting rid of the pain for a while it does a lot of damage to all of the area around it.

I only had an injection once, that was into my elbow (from sitting and working on a computer with bad posture for a long time) and it worked but I had to make sure that I permanently altered the way that I sat and held my posture so that the problem would not come back.


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