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Ways to Treat Elbow Bursitis Pain & Inflammation

by Patty Weasler, RN May 15, 2020 0 Comments

Woman using Ice Pack

Elbow bursitis can be more than an annoying bump on the tip of the elbow. It can lead to pain, swelling, and a serious infection. Thankfully, elbow bursitis treatment can be done with a few home remedies or during a visit to the doctor. Don’t let elbow pain from a swollen bursa slow you down, take a look at our list of treatments to help you determine which one is right for your situation. 

Home Remedies

If the elbow, or olecranon, bursa is swollen from an injury or too much pressure on the elbow then home remedies can be the first step in treatment. In this section, we’ll cover home remedies for olecranon bursitis that are both simple and effective.

  • Rest

    Elbow bursitis can be caused by an injury, overuse, or direct pressure on a hard surface for long periods. If one of these reasons is the cause for your inflamed bursa then rest is one of the best remedies. Resting will give the inflamed bursa time to heal and allow the swelling to go down.

  • Ice and Heat

    Using ice on your elbow will minimize pain and reduce inflammation. Cold both interrupts the pain signal and reduces swelling by tightening blood vessels. These two mechanisms provide pain relief and lessen swelling. Ice packs can be placed on your swollen elbow for 20-minute intervals.

    Heat is a great home remedy that both soothes and relaxes the body. It works by widening blood vessels to bring more blood to the area, which allows more oxygen and nutrients to reach the site of injury. Avoid using heat during the initial injury phase, the increase of blood in the area can cause more swelling to occur.

    Learn more about properly alternating ice & heat on an injury.

  • Medication

    Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and naproxen can be effective pain medication for elbow bursitis. These anti-inflammatory drugs work by minimizing swelling and providing pain relief. If your elbow bursitis has been caused by an infection then you may need an antibiotic. An infected bursa needs to be treated differently than if it is caused by something else.

  • Elbow Supports

    Elbow pads wrap around the elbow joint to cushion the back of the elbow and prevent further injury from pressure. The wrap portion of the elbow pad will also provide some compression, which will control swelling.

    An elbow brace is another option. The brace will immobilize the joint which will give it time to rest and recover. Talk to a sports medicine healthcare professional to help you determine the right elbow support for you.

    How to Pick the Best Elbow Brace for Bursitis.

Medical Treatment

While home remedies are helpful for many people with elbow bursitis, it is not always the right choice for everyone. When elbow bursitis is severe or caused by an infection its time to seek medical attention. Below we’ll cover the available medical treatments and how they can manage the symptoms of elbow bursitis.

  • Physical Therapy

    A physical therapist is specially trained to give patients exercises and stretches to help improve their conditions. This can help improve movement after the bursitis has developed, and protect from further injury by strengthening the muscles near the elbow.

    See a range of elbow bursitis exercises you can try at home here.

  • Steroid Injections

    Steroid injections use corticosteroid medication injected in the elbow bursa. This works as a strong anti-inflammatory to decrease swelling and pain in the area. Patients typically find quick relief with a steroid injection but due to side effects, this medication cannot be injected too frequently.

  • Plasma Injections

    Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is an uncommon treatment that may offer benefits to some patients. To get the PRP, the patient has a small amount of blood taken and the blood is placed in a machine that separates the platelets from the red blood cells and other material. The PRP is injected into the patient’s bursa to help improve healing time. Platelets release growth factors, which can help the body’s tissue heal after an injury. 

  • Surgery

    Surgery is reserved for the most severe cases, like chronic elbow bursitis and septic bursitis. Below are the surgical procedures that may be performed.

    Incision and Drainage

    This procedure is done in a doctor’s office or in surgery. First, the elbow and surrounding area will be numbed and prepped. Then, a doctor makes a small cut into the bursa to drain the fluid. This surgery is typically only done when aspiration of the fluid isn’t possible or septic bursitis is suspected.


    A bursectomy is a procedure that removes the entire elbow bursa. A new bursa will grow back in a few months, but it is important to protect the joint during the regrowth phase to prevent further injury to the site.


    In this procedure, the surgeon removes bone spurs that have formed within the elbow. These bone spurs can irritate the bursa causing bursitis. Osteotomy can be performed as a stand-alone procedure or in conjunction with drainage and bursectomy.


The key to elbow bursitis is preventing the condition before it even happens. While this is not possible in every case, these preventative tips can help reduce the severity of the condition. Here is how you can reduce your chances of developing elbow bursitis:

When to See a Doctor

It’s important to see a doctor when you have a new or changing condition. If you suspect your elbow bursitis is caused by an infection then you need to see your doctor for treatment. Here are a few other indications that would require a doctor visit:

  • Warmth or redness on the elbow
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Pain when moving the joint
  • Joint swelling that makes movement difficult

Safe and Effective Elbow Bursitis Treatment

Elbow bursitis is a condition that causes the bursa to fill with fluid and become swollen. There are many home remedies that can help reduce the symptoms and provide pain relief. However, in some cases medical treatment is necessary. Talk to your doctor if you develop elbow bursitis to determine the best plan for your condition.




Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.

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