Bursitis is an inflammation of the bursa, a small fluid-filled sac that cushions and protects your joints. The olecranon bursa at the tip of your elbow lies between the bone and skin. Bursitis can occur from trauma to your elbow, infection, prolonged periods of pressure or repetitive activities.
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Your elbow may become swollen, painful, red or difficult to move, explains Mayo Clinic. Although there aren't specific elbow bursitis exercises that can help the underlying condition, exercises may be prescribed by your doctor to improve mobility and strength in your injured arm.
Include Elbow Bursitis Exercises
Exercises for elbow bursitis are aimed at stretching and strengthening the muscles of your arm that can become tight and weak from lack of use. You may begin doing these exercises once you no longer feel pain at rest. Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat three times.
Move 1: Wrist Extensor Stretch
- Straighten the injured arm and raise it up in front of your body.
- Use your opposite hand to pull the hand on your injured arm down so that your fingers are pointing toward the ground. You should feel a stretch on top of your forearm.
Move 2: Wrist Flexor Stretch
- Straighten your elbow and lift your arm out in front of you.
- Using the opposite hand, gently pull your hand up so that your fingers are pointed towards the ceiling. This stretch will be felt on the underside of your forearm.
Move 3: Wrist Extension Curls
- Sit next to the edge of a table.
- Holding a small dumbbell, place your injured forearm on the table with your palm facing the ground.
- Allow your hand to hang over the edge of the table.
- Slowly raise the weight up with your wrist and then back down to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 times.
Move 4: Wrist Flexor Curls
- Rest your forearm on the end of a table with a small dumbbell in your hand.
- Rotate your forearm until your palm faces up.
- Bend your wrist up toward your forearm.
- Slowly lower back down.
- Repeat 10 times.
Try Other Remedies
Elbow bursitis that occurs from trauma, such as a fall, or from prolonged pressure on your elbow can often be treated with other noninvasive remedies. Wear an elbow pad to protect the affected area from direct pressure until your swelling has subsided.
Home remedies such as ice and gentle compression can help decrease your symptoms. Physical therapy for elbow bursitis can also be helpful.
Your doctor might suggest oral medications to reduce inflammation in your elbow as well.
If your elbow continues to be swollen after three to six weeks, your doctor might choose to inject the area with steroid medications or drain off the excess fluid, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Read more: Treatments for Elbow Pain From Weightlifting
Seek Medical Attention
If your elbow swells without an obvious cause or develops from an injury or bite that breaks the skin, seek medical attention. This swelling can indicate infection.
Bursitis that is caused by an infection must be treated by a doctor immediately, as the infection could potentially spread to other areas of the body, as explained in a 2017 article published in the journal American Family Physician. Symptoms of an infection include redness, warmth, tenderness and pus.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.