If your doctor suspects that bursitis is due to an infection, he or she may recommend aspirating (removing the fluid from) the bursa with a needle. This is commonly performed as an office procedure. Fluid removal helps relieve symptoms and gives your doctor a sample that can be looked at in a laboratory to identify if any bacteria are growing. This also lets your doctor know if a specific antibiotic is needed to fight the infection.
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics before the exact type of infection is identified. This is done to prevent the infection from progressing. The antibiotic that your doctor prescribes at this point will treat a number of possible infections.
If the bursitis is not from an infection, it is treated with a number of options.
* Elbow pads. An elbow pad may be used to cushion your elbow.
Activity changes. Avoid activities that cause direct pressure to your swollen elbow.
Medications. Oral medications such as ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatories may be used to reduce swelling and relieve your symptoms.
If swelling and pain do not respond to these measures after 3 to 4 weeks, your doctor may recommend removing fluid from the bursa and injecting a corticosteroid medication into the bursa. The steroid medication is an anti-inflammatory drug that is stronger than the medication that can be taken by mouth. Corticosteroid injections usually work well to relieve pain and swelling. However, symptoms can return.
Your doctor may remove fluid from the swollen bursa to check for infection, or to prepare the bursa for a corticosteroid injection.