How To Treat Elbow Bursitis

By Max. D Gray. Updated: May 13, 2018
How To Treat Elbow Bursitis

The most common elbow problems include: lateral epicondylitis (otherwise known as tennis elbow), medial epicondylitis (golfer's elbow) and olecranon bursitis. Olecranon bursitis is an inflammation of the elbow caused by a single, moderate injury, or repeated minor injuries, such as excessive leaning on the elbow point. For this reason it is also known as student's elbow as many people rest their elbow on a desk as they study. This oneHOWTO article provides a series of recommendations on how to treat elbow bursitis, exploring symptoms, causes and shows you how to cure it. This may be something you can do at home or it may require some more specific medican intervention. Either way a doctor's examination should be carried out for an effective course of treatment.

You'll need:
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Steps to follow:

The first thing you should do to treat this type of inflammation is get plenty of rest. Even though it may only cause minimal pain, it's important to avoid other injuries. Do not do any sports that involve elbow movement and make sure you rest your elbow on a soft surface if you have to be on a computer for a long time. This is why many mouse pads have a silicone gel pad on them to help rest your arm without leaning on your elbow.

The most important factor in treating elbow bursitis is to determine whether it is infected. Being swollen doesn't necessarily mean it will be infected. If it is not, then reducing the inflammation is imperative. If it is infected, this needs to be treated. The severity of the infection will be a mitigating factor, but only a doctor can determine this, so a visit to your local physician will be required to be given the correct treatment.


Avoid leaning on your elbow as much as possible, and any elbow contact with hard surfaces. Especially, avoid leaning your head on your elbow to relieve the pain from bursitis. To be honest, you don't really need to be told this if the elbow is infected. The infection will likely also likely have pain as a symptom, making leaning on the elbow an unpleasant experience. You may need to be careful in acute cases so that you don't move onto it when sleeping. Also be careful when walking through doors, going through crowds or being in any situation where you may have an increased likelihood of knocking it against something or someone.

How To Treat Elbow Bursitis - Step 2

As with any muscle or joint condition, NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) can help to reduce pain. The following NSAIDs are particularly recommended: ibuprofen (200 mg / 8 hrs), aspirin (325 mg / 8 hrs) and diclofenac (50 mg / 8 hrs). Providing a dose of paracetamol (500 mg / 6 hrs) can help with the pain, although it is known to have limited anti-inflammatory properties.

The anti-inflammatory drugs work to reduce the collection of fluid. You can often buy over-the-counter NSAIDs such as ibuprofen to treat the symptoms. However, if the inflammation is severe, a doctor may prescribe something stronger. This is why visiting a physician is so important.


Use cold gel compresses every so often to help reduce the bursitis inflammation. It may also help to use a bandage around the area to control the inflammation and make sure your elbow doesn't move. This is not simply to reduce inflammation, but also to help with the symptoms as it can help reduce pain. It will also protect against knocks if bandaged or covered in some sort of protection. This similar to what happens if you were to hyperextend your knee.


If this does not relieve the pain, or if you have been advised not to take NSAIDs, a doctor may apply local corticosteroid injections. This is another reason why it's vitally important to go to your doctor if the pain doesn't fade away.

How To Treat Elbow Bursitis - Step 5

If the infection looks severe (or if the build up is particularly great), an aspiration and fluid analysis may be needed to rule out complications such as septic bursitis. Aspiration is the removal of fluid by draining the area. It is also known as lancing and often involves piercing the skin on the area of the bursitis. This fluid can then be analysed for infection. You may need a series of aspirations until the bursitis is gone completely.


In severe cases, there may be the need for surgical intervention. These cases are fortunately only in rare cases of olecranon bursitis and is usually linked to other lesions. It may be required if the inflammation still does not abate after the initial course of antibiotic treatment along with repeated draining. A synovial bursa is the fluid-sac which provides cushioning between tendons. It is this which becomes inflamed (the suffix -itis means inflammation, so bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa) during a case of olecranon bursitis.

The surgery removes the bursa completely and then let's it regrow at a natural rate. The surgery may require local or even general anaesthetic depending on the severity of the case[1]. However, it is considered a minor surgery which should have little risk of complications. The complications are likely due to any of the patient's pre-existing conditions.

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to How To Treat Elbow Bursitis, we recommend you visit our Diseases & secondary effects category.

  • If you have elbow pain go and see a doctor, as there are different treatments for different types of pain.
  • Patients with a history of gout or other rheumatic diseases should go and see a specialist, as the elbow pain might be a complication of this disease.
  • Some people have also seen improvement in bursitis by having ultrasound treatment too. Ask your doctor about the different treatments and alternatives.

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