- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Tendonitis and Bursitis - A Natural Approach
Symptoms and Causes of Tendonitis and Bursitis
The symptoms of both problems are rather similar; inflammation and pain of the affected area, sometimes with redness and heat in the same area, and also loss of mobility in the affected joint. These problems can arise in any of the joints of the body, but most commonly in the leg and arm joints; shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees and ankles.
It is important to note that the symptoms of tendonitis and bursitis can be rather similar to those of other disorders such as gout and various forms of arthritis; consequently, it is important to seek medical advice before attempting any natural treatments as some of the required steps are different for these disorders with similar symptoms. Also, severe symptoms can be due to actual rupture (complete or partial) of the affected tendon or bursa, and again this needs professional attention - perhaps surgical.
Tendonitis is inflammation of one or more tendons, usually resulting from damage caused by over-use or injury (such as an ankle giving way, for example). In a healthy young adult this usually heals within two weeks or so; but it takes longer the older you get, and may become chronic if not attended to or if you continue to aggravate the injury - continuing to play sports involving running when you have a bad knee, for example.
Bursitis is inflammation of the bursa, the tough fibrous sac that surrounds the joint and contains the synovial fluid that lubricates the joints. Various forms of arthritis can involve the bursa, and infections can sometimes attack the bursa also, but probably the most common cause of bursitis is injury as with tendons. Of course, several different causes of tendonitis can combine to worsen the problem. Bursitis is more usually chronic than in the case of tendonitis.
In both cases, probably the main possible complication is that if the area is inflamed for long enough the body starts creating deposits of calcium salts (the same ones that form the mineral portion of bone, in fact) and if that happens the problem can last a lot longer. This is because, in this case, the inflammation feeds on itself. The mineral crystals cause damage and inflammation in the area, to which the body responds by creating more deposits. A bad case of chronic tendonitis or bursitis may be visible on X-rays, for this reason.
Prevention and Treatment of Tendonitis and Bursitis
One of the obvious and highly effective ways of preventing tendonitis and bursitis is to avoid injury likely to trigger them. This means not trying to lift weights heavier than you can comfortably handle and lifting using proper form; avoiding overuse of the wrist and hand joints (recently becoming well-known under the name of RSI) and being careful about how and where you run if that is one of your favourite exercises. Running on hard surfaces and/or wearing unsuitable shoes is one of the leading causes of problems with the leg joints. In particular, poor ankle support in running shoes is a very good way of spraining an ankle.
Also, injured joints should be allowed time to heal. This does not mean not using the joint at all (that can cause problems, too) but it does mean that movement of the joint should be slow, gentle and not under strain during the healing process.
However, despite precautions it is still possible to get chronic tendonitis or bursitis, and of course this advice might be too late! Chronic tendonitis and bursitis are quite treatable by natural means.
The first avenue of approach is similar to some treatments often used in conventional medicine as well. These are various manipulative therapies, and also such things as ultrasonic and heat treatment applied directly to the affected area.
The second avenue of approach is a mixture of herbal and nutritional supplements.
Vitamin C; is important for the formation of collagen, ground substance and intercellular cement substance - all-important around joints and tendons.
Vitamin A and beta-carotene; important for collagen synthesis and wound healing.
Zinc; has similar functions to vitamin A, plus reduction of inflammation.
Boron; important for calcium metabolism - can reverse calcification.
Bioflavonoids; extremely effective in reducing inflammation and building collagen.
Quercetin and pine bark extract will be explained more fully later.
Glucosamine compounds: These are the basic building blocks of collagen and other tissue components, and are needed in large amounts for tissue repair. We should be able to produce them within our bodies, but when production is insufficient, supplementation can produce some impressive results.
Vitamin E and Selenium; work together to reduce inflammation by antioxidant effects, and greatly speed up healing.
A standardised extract of Boswellia, used on its own at the rate of 600mg per day, has been shown, in one study, to improve symptoms in 97% of patients aged from 5 to 75 presenting with rheumatoid arthritis. The treatment reduced joint swelling, reduced morning stiffness, increased mobility, reduced heat, increased blood circulation and gave pain relief. In addition to its anti-inflammatory and indirect pain-relieving action, boswellic acid (the main active constituent of boswellia extract) has a repairing effect on all joint tissues, due to its powerful anti-oxidant properties.
Bioflavonoids are extremely effective in reducing inflammation and stabilising collagen structures.
Quercetin is a particularly effective bioflavonoid, since as well as limiting inflammation it also has powerful healing effects.
Pine bark extract is a mixture of various flavonoids, with anti-oxidant effects, many times stronger than either vitamin C or vitamin E. In large enough doses, it has been known to relieve arthritis and muscular pain overnight.
Grape Seed Extract is slightly stronger than pine bark extract. A combination of the two is very powerful.