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Olecranon Bursitis
Students and Miner’s Elbow (desk users in general) and Physiotherapy

Olecranon bursitis is typically characterized by

  • swelling
  • redness and
  • pain in the elbow joint’s bony projection

There are many other names olecranon bursitis is also known by, such as

  • students’ elbow
  • miners elbow and
  • bakers elbow

Prolonged pressure on the elbow joint is the leading cause behind the condition. Here in this article we discuss what is olecranon bursitis in detail and explore the potential hand and physiotherapy treatments for olecranon bursitis.

What Is Olecranon Bursitis?

To understand the condition, olecranon bursitis, you need first to acquaint yourself with the anatomy of the elbow.

So the olecranon is the name for the top part of the ulna. The ulna is the bone that extends down the forearm from the elbow to the smallest finger. To be more precise, the olecranon is the bony projection at the elbow.

Olecranon bursitis is essentially pain, tenderness and inflammation in the olecranon bursa, which refers to a fluid-filled space between the skin and olecranon. If the elbow joint faces consistent micro-trauma, it can lead to bleeding in the bursa and can cause inflammation.

To be precise, the lining of the bursa becomes inflamed as a reaction to the trauma and starts secreting a larger amount of fluid into the cavity between the skin and the olecranon, which causes the swelling.

Repeated movements, constant pressure on the elbow, or a hard blow to the elbow are the typical common causes of olecranon bursitis.

Two types of bursitis can occur in the olecranon.

  1. Aseptic bursitis – it occurs as a result of a hard blow to the tip, olecranon, of the elbow, or because of prolonged pressure on the joint. It is only mildly painful.
  2. Septic bursitis – aseptic bursitis can turn septic due to a puncture in the overlying skin allowing bacteria to seep into the swollen bursa sac.

The inflammation is not always painful but has the tendency to be so if it undergoes constant trauma (which will prolong and worsen the condition).

It can also becomes painful if an infection develops or if the olecranon bursitis is coupled with gout or rheumatoid arthritis.

common Symptoms of Olecranon Bursitis

Swelling and redness are the two most common symptoms of olecranon bursitis.

You may start to notice gradual swelling in the initial stages. The easiest way to identify it is by noticing whether you keep bumping your elbow in random places.

If so, then it might be because the elbow is swollen. As long as it
is painless or only slightly painful, it is probably aseptic.

If bursitis becomes painful, starts to feel tender and warm, chances are it has developed into septic bursitis. The inflamed area may start developing pus, and the infected person may develop a fever.

To identify whether or not the fluid is infected, your consulting physician may extract some fluid and send it for lab tests. When you see an orthopedic doctor, they might recommend you take oral anti-inflammatory medication.

In some cases, they may even remove the fluid from the bursa through a process called aspiration.

Who is at Risk of developing olecranon bursitis?

  • Students and workers who rest their elbow on a desk for extended periods are susceptible to the condition.
  • Miners and Plumbers who need to crawl in and out of tiny spaces and work in cramped spots are also at risk.
  • Bakers are also at risk, especially if they prefer to use their hands to whip batter and knead the dough.
  • Laborers, including gardeners, mechanics, carpet layers, construction workers, etc., are also at risk of developing the condition.
  • People with pre-existing medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis are at an increased risk, as are those with a previous history of olecranon bursitis.
  • Sports-related injuries like sprains and strains can also cause bursitis in the elbow.
  • Overtraining in the gym or overworking your elbow can also be the reason behind the inflammation in the olecranon bursa.
  • Old age, obesity, poor lifestyle, compromised immunity due to excessive steroid intake can all increase are all risk factors for bursitis.

How Can Physiotherapy Help?

Often conditions like olecranon bursitis recur because of incomplete treatment or progressive carelessness by the patient. Elbow hand therapy and physiotherapy can help speed up recovery and improve rehabilitation.

In many cases, it becomes absolutely essential to ensure the maintenance of the full range of motion.

The most common treatment method for Olecranon Bursitis is called RICE, which stands for Rest, Ice Compression, and Elevation.

Our principal hand therapists and physiotherapists will recommend that the patient avoid overusing the elbow to reduce friction, which in turn will allow the bursa lining to heal.

The rest of management is coupled with compression treatment to ensure that continued immobility during the rest period does not aggravate swelling and pain.

The compression treatment ensures ideal blood circulation, which is suitable for pain reduction. Icing helps reduce inflammation and speed up recovery.

Lastly, the affected area is elevated to ensure optimal waste reduction through improved blood circulation. It also reduces pressure on the elbow allowing for a speedy recovery.

Other treatments are often coupled with RICE to ensure optimal recovery and rehabilitation.

Stretching and Strengthening Exercises

It is essential to ensure the elbow retains its range of motion.

To do that, our principal hand therapists and physiotherapist will help
you with stretching and strengthening exercises. Together, they will help the joint recover through controlled movements that are not stressful for the elbow.

Stretching exercises include finger extensions, grip, wrist flexor, and extensor stretch, elbow stretch, and elbow flexor stretch.

It is essential that you seek help from a trained professional and do not try to do these exercises yourself, or you may end up aggravating the condition.

Strengthening exercises include forearm rotations, wrist curls, and bicep curls with dumbbells. Here

Our principal hand therapists and physiotherapists will provide you the support you need to build strength slowly.

Again, do not try these at home as you can worsen the injury, especially because of the dumbbell’s added weight.

Manual Therapy

Physiotherapists also use manual therapy to treat pain and reduce inflammation associated with acute bursitis in the elbow joint (olecranon bursitis).

In manual therapy, the therapist provides pressure to the tissue surrounding the bursa. It improves blood circulation, reduces inflammation which reduces pain,
and also improves joint range of motion.

Manual therapy is always followed by corrective exercises, including but not limited to, stretching and strengthening exercises mentioned above. These corrective exercises focus on long term recovery and are ideal for those with a history of recurring olecranon bursitis.

Ultrasound Therapy

Besides cold therapy such as icing, our principal physiotherapists and hand therapists will also employ the use of ultrasound therapy to reduce inflammation in the bursa.

It is a conventional treatment for musculoskeletal problems, including inflammation, which most commonly occurs due to

Ultrasound therapy uses sound waves to treat medical conditions. It is one of the most popular and effective forms of physiotherapy treatment and can patients recover quicker.

It is also known as vibration therapy and can help effectively reduce swelling, edema, inflammation and pain.

Other Treatments

Physiotherapy does not involve a one size fits all approach.

We will take into account

  • the causes of theolecranon bursitis
  • daily activity that may contribute or exercebate the problem
  • patient’s medical history

to identify underlying health conditions that can affect treatment and then charts a treatment plan for long term recovery.

There are four (4) phases to an effective olecranon bursitis treatment, and the techniques used in each can
vary by patient.

  1. Phase 1 is the pain relief and protection phase. It involves inflammation and pain management techniques and can include ultrasound therapy, cold therapy, soft tissue massage, de-loading techniques including elevation, and so on. The goal here is to ensure the injury doesn’t get worse and starts getting better.
  2. Phase 2 involves restoring normal range of motion and strengthening the joint. Here is where the therapist will start conducting stretching and strengthening exercises to prevent long-term damage.
  3. Phase 3 is where the therapist helps you restore the full function of your arm and elbow joint. It involves the use of corrective exercise that can train your elbow for your desired functionality.
  4. Phase 4 is about rehabilitation. It revolves around training your bursa not to get inflamed due to the excessive movement ensuring long term recovery.

Therapists use a variety of treatments throughout these phases. They could include the

  • RICE technique
  • Active Release Techniques (ART)
  • Joint Mobilization and Manipulation
  • or even Instrument Assisted SoftTissue Mobilization (IASTM).

Essentially, all of these fall under manual therapy techniques and promote increased blood flow to ensure self-healing.

Phoenix Rehab Group

If you’re looking for trained physiotherapists to help you recover from olecranon bursitis, then the Phoenix Rehab Group is the one for you. We house not only trained physiotherapists but also trained rehab specialists and subspecialists.

For your best and most complete recovery, we have a multi-disciplinary specialist therapy to offer a wide range of services, from back and neck therapy to foot therapy and everything in between.

We have acupuncture specialists, massage therapists, and even fitness training experts to ensure optimal recovery for any and all injuries.

If a patient is diagnosed with olecranon bursitis, we make sure they get personalized treatment ensuring long term results. Once the procedure is complete, the patient will no longer feel stiffness in the elbow or pain.

We also ensure that the results are long term, and our expert trainer will work on training the elbow to suit the patient’s requirement. Whatever your pain or physical limitation is, Phoenix Rehab experts can solve it for you.