While some of us are more bony than others, nature has fortunately provided all of us with miniature ‘cushions’ in specific joints, to help prevent our bones from rubbing against each other. These ‘cushions’ are called bursa, and are literally small sacs of connective tissue filled with fluid of an egg-white consistency, synovial fluid.
The knee joint is one area well supplied with these bursae. There are two: The pre patellar bursa which is in front of your kneecap, and the suprapatellar bursa, which sits just above and behind your kneecap. There are two bursae in your shoulder too – located deep within the joint to help cushion the complex arrangement of bones and large range of movement of this joint. Some tendons in the body are also provided with bursa-like sheaths, particularly in areas where there are large numbers of tendons crammed together, increasing the potential for constant friction – as within wrists and ankles.
The bursae can become inflamed or be damaged as easily as other areas of the body. Frequent causes of injury are over-use, infection, or auto-immune disorders such as rheumatism. ‘Tennis elbow’ or ‘Housemaid’s Knee’ are commonly used expressions for soft tissue injuries in these joints.
Damage to a joint, whether due to bursitis or other cause, manifests as stiffness or limitations in movement, and pain. To put it simply, if you feel pain when moving a joint, something in it needs attention.
The best natural treatments for bursitis are both internal and external. Nutrients can reduce the inflammation and provide the raw materials for cells to repair themselves. Herbal creams or ointments can penetrate to help the joint heal. As with all musculo-skeletal injuries, manipulative therapies will speed the healing process. Massage can promote blood flow to the area and removal of wastes, and soothe muscles which have worked hard to compensate for problems in movement. Acupuncture can be of particular benefit too.
If you are interested in the psychosomatic basis for body problems, the joints represent ease of movement through life and flexibility with change. Shoulder problems can indicate a heavy load of burdens in life to carry.
Rest of the affected area for several weeks is essential - it takes that long for the tissue to heal to a point where it won’t be injured easily again.
Understandably, the earlier you treat an inflamed joint, the sooner it will heal and the sooner you will be out of pain and mobile again. It may seem easier to try to ignore the problem in the hope that it will just go away. But pain is a sign from your body that it needs attention. Your health professional can help you decide which form of treatment is best for you.