A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that serves as a cushion to allow free movement of your joints. When pressure or inflammation affects the fluid-filled bursae around your elbow, the resulting condition is called olecranon bursitis. Inflammation could result from a sudden blow or chronic pressure on the elbow. Such chronic pressure often arises from habitual leaning on the elbows -- a typical posture assumed while reading, thus inheriting the term "student's elbow." You can treat olecranon bursitis in a variety of ways, including the use of exercise.
Olecranon Bursitis Causes
Bursitis is inflammation. Though chronic pressure from leaning on the elbow is the most common cause of olecranon bursitis, several other inflammatory conditions could contribute to it. Once the bursa bursts, squirting its fluid into your elbow, the resultant swelling is called "Popeye's elbow," after the cartoon character Popeye. You could also develop olecranon bursitis as a result of joint overuse, infection, bleeding into your joint and arthritis, as well as deposition of crystals in your joints.
Olecranon Bursitis Exercises
Many cases of olecranon bursitis could be successfully treated using the RICE principle, which stands for Rest, Ice application, Compression and Elevation. In selected cases, however, you could cure olecranon bursitis with supervised stretching exercises. Aim to improve muscle strength and joint flexibility by correcting muscle tightness and joint stiffness. Pay attention to your triceps, in particular, while performing stretching exercises to improve flexibility. Don't overwork your elbow joints, however, as you stand to benefit more from a gradual return to full joint activity.
Additional Therapy Measures
Allow your elbow joint to rest in order to recover. Some cases of olecranon bursitis need additional expert physical therapy measures like electrical stimulation and phonophoresis using ultrasound. Beware of the two extremes of inadequate rehabilitation and over-exercise. You could also benefit from soft tissue massage, heat treatment, joint mobilization and activity modification. If you are not fully cured by a combination of these treatments, then you could have arthritis or an infection necessitating medication. In extreme cases, surgery is necessary. Luckily, such cases are rare.
Making A Difference
By far, the most common cause of olecranon bursitis is repetitive pressure. Ordinarily, the condition shouldn't be that painful. Seek urgent medical attention if you experience severe pain, redness or have a fever, as you may have an infection, according to I M Stell and W M Gransden in the June 1998 edition of "British Medical Journal." Obviously, exercises alone will not suffice in such cases. Should you be a known sufferer of arthritis, rule this out as a cause before embarking on a wild goose chase for other causes.
- Emedicine: Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for Olecranon Bursitis
- Exercisedaily.org: Bursitis
- "American Family Physician"; Upper Extremity Bursitis; Salzman Kl, et al.; November 1997
- Physioadvisor.com: Olecranon Bursitis
- "BMJ"; Simple Tests for Septic Bursitis: Comparative Study; I M Stell, W R Gransden; February 1998