Bursitis Natural Treatments

Natural Medicine for Bursitis

Written by Sandy Cho, MD and reviewed by Julie A. Cerrato, PhD, AP, CYT, CAP

Bursitis is an inflammation of the body’s small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints called bursae. Bursitis is often caused by repetitive motion and use of a joint.

There are several natural treatments for bursitis including Herbal Medicine, Supplements, Homeopathy, and Exercise.

The following provides information on bursitis natural treatments.


What is Bursitis?

Bursitis is an inflammation of the body’s small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints called bursae. These bursae help to lubricate and cushion the joints. Bursae are most commonly affected at the shoulder, elbow, hip, and knee joints in the body. Bursitis is often caused by repetitive motion and use of a joint. Some examples include:

  • Throwing a baseball
  • Lifting an object over your head repeatedly
  • Prolonged kneeling on a hard surface
  • Leaning on your elbows for extended periods of time

Bursitis can also occur as a result of mild injury, infection of a joint, or arthritis.

What are the signs and symptoms?

  • Aching or stiffness of the joint that worsens with movement
  • Sharp or shooting pain
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Warm joint

What are conventional treatments?

The treatment of bursitis usually involves resting and elevating the affected joint and alternating between applying hot and cold packs to the affected area.
Medications: NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) may be used to reduce inflammation and pain

  • Over –the-counter NSAIDs: include Advil, Aleve, and Motrin. These may cause gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Prescription NSAIDs: such as diclofenac (Voltaren) may also be used. Such medications may increase your risk of heart attack or stroke if used for a prolonged duration

Injections: an injection of corticosteroid into the bursa may reduce inflammation and pain.
Surgery: in a few, rare cases, surgical intervention may be warranted.


Herbs can help reduce inflammation found in bursitis and have been used throughout time in all parts of the world.

To ensure safety and avoid drug interactions, consult your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Boswellia (Boswellia serrata): Extracts of Boswellia serrata have been clinically studied for osteoarthritis and joint function as well as in reducing pain and inflammation of the joints of the body. 150 mg three times a day has been shown to be effective. Boswellia gel may be used for topical application.
  • Turmeric: a well- known spice that has long been used as a powerful anti-inflammatory in both Chinese and Indian medicine. 375 mg three times a day for three months has been shown to be effective.
  • White willow (Salix alba): boil 2 grams (half teaspoon) of its bark in 8 ounces of water. Drink up to 5 cups per day. As white willow acts similarly to aspirin, please consult with your healthcare provider before taking if you are allergic to aspirin or salicylates. Children under 18 years of age should not be given white willow.


Along with a diet high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fatty fish, while avoiding processed foods and foods in high in sugar and fat, supplements can help reduce inflammation in bursitis.

To ensure safety and avoid drug interactions, consult your doctor or pharmacist before using any of these supplements:

  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an antioxidant. In terms of cellular health, because it is an electron donor, it helps to reduce oxidative stress and keep the cells in a reduced or natural state. Vitamin C can help to repair connective tissue such as cartilage found in joints.
    • The ester form of Vitamin C is better absorbed than other formulations
    • Vitamin C at a dose of 2000 mg a day is a good starting dose
  • Glucosamine sulfate: as effective as NSAIDS in treating pain, it may benefit those experiencing moderate to severe pain. Glucosamine and chondroitin can also reduce total body inflammation, including lowering C-reactive protein levels.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Supplementation with Omega 3 fish oil can decrease the inflammation and reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis and/or bursitis. In one study, the use of Omega 3 fish oil and glucosamine together markedly showed a decrease in stiffness and pain compared to those who just received glucosamine.
    • A good anti-inflammatory dose is at least 3-4 grams a day to start and slowly increase to a maximum of 7-8 grams
    • As this supplement can thin the blood, if you are on any blood thinners, you may wish to start at a lower dose and increase upwards


Homeopathic medicine provides support and relief for those suffering from bursitis.

  • Arnica gel has been demonstrated for reducing inflammation of the joints. The application of Arnica topically to the hands or knees can be very effective in reducing pain and inflammation.


  • Chiropractic treatment is often used to treat people with bursitis, affording them decreased pain and increased range of motion. Chiropractic medicine involves adjustments or manipulations of the spine and joints to realign vertebra and joints. The treatment objectives consist of reducing inflammation of the joint, restoring proper posture and movement, and bringing the whole body back to its healthy state.
  • Acupuncture can help reduce swelling and inflammation as well as relieve pain in the joints from bursitis. Frequently used for pain relief, the Chinese philosophy believes by putting needles in certain locations, the body’s energy flow or qi can be rebalanced and provide relief. Many Westerners think the stimulation of certain nerves, muscles and connective tissues increases the body’s blood flow and release of endorphins which can lessen discomfort.


  • Exercise provides a multitude of benefits. From a greater immune system, increased stamina to stronger muscles, exercise is highly recommended. In bursitis, exercising the muscles around the affected joint helps to reduce the pressure on the affected joint and bursa itself. Exercises such as yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi can help improve the strength of your muscles and ligaments while reducing muscle tension.


  • Hochber MC, Clegg DO. Potential effects of chondroitin sulfate on joint swelling: a GAIT report. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. 2008;16 Suppl 3:S22-S24.
  • Kimmatkar N, Thawani V, Hingorani L, et al. Efficacy and tolerability of Boswellia serrata extract in treatment of osteoarthritis of knee — a randomized double blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 2003;10:3-7.
  • Ross SM. “Osteoarthritis: a proprietary Arnica gel is found to be as effective as ibuprofen gel in osteoarthritis of the hands.” Holistic Nursing Practice. 2008 Jul-Aug;22(4):237-239.
  • Schmid B, Ludtke R, Selbmann HK, et al. Efficacy and tolerability of a standardized willow bark extract in patients with osteoarthritis: randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind clinical trial. Z Rheumatol. 2000;59:314-320.
  • Shakibaei M, John T et al. Suppression of NF-kappaB activation by curcumin leads to inhibition of expression of cyclo-oxygenase-2 and matrix metalloproteinase-9 in human articular chondrocytes: Implications for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Biochemical Pharmacology. 2007 May 1;73(9):1434-145.
  • Vas J, Perea-Milla E, Mendez C, Galante AH, Madrazo F, Medina I, et al. Acupuncture and rehabilitation of the painful shoulder: study protocol of an ongoing multicentre randomised controlled clinical trial. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2005 Oct 14;5:19.

Updated: October 2013