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Elbow Bursitis experience
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By kirkadirka
From Boulder
Jul 11, 2013
turkey rocks

Hey all,

I am currently dealing with a very strange new injury that appears to be elbow bursitis.

It started out a few weeks ago as minor swelling/fluid in the elbow. No pain to speak of.

I saw the doctor and he said activity was OK but just don't hit the elbow. Since then I have done a little climbing (mostly bouldering) and my elbow fluid has increased.

So it's looking like I will need to go back in to get it drained and maybe a hydrocortisone shot.

Has anyone else dealt with this issue before? What did you do for treatment? Recovery?

It's weird because even with the increased swelling I don't really have any pain and still have full range of motion.

Thanks.


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By Boissal
From Small Lake, UT
Jul 22, 2013

I dealt with elbow bursitis a few years ago. I'm still not sure whether the onset was climbing related or not although it appears to have been. I climbed on a Saturday and felt some tenderness and slight swelling in the elbow. I iced it and went to bed, woke up with what looked like a grapefruit in place of the joint. It freaked me out even though there was no pain, just difficulty moving due to the mass of fluid and and a bit of tenderness.
Once I figure out what it was I drove myself to the instacare where the doc recommended draining the bursa on the spot. He warned me that in a few cases it could lead to infections and if I was really concerned I could let it be and the swelling would be gone within a couple of weeks. Not wanting to deal with local elephantiasis I had it drained, which was one of the most unpleasant experiences I've had medically (I'm a wuss).
I immediately started feeling like ass, struggled to drive myself home, passed out for a couple hours, had all kinds of nightmares and woke up with 100 degree fever and a red and puffy arm. I landed in the ER a couple days later with a gnarly bacterial infection that had most likely started from a scrape on that elbow. The doc wasn't sure if the drain led to the infection or if things had already started going South and the timing was just odd.

Anyway, the point is that I'd have it drained, it's essentially painless and if there are no complications you'll be climbing within a days or so. Just make sure the elbow is extra-sanitized.
Keeping it around wouldn't be fun, I felt like everytime I brushed against something my elbow would open up.


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By Dan Mathews
Jul 31, 2013

I had it a couple of times in short succession several years ago, which were likely relapses. I had them drained and received the shot. I'm a little more aware of banging my elbows around and resting them on the desk at work now, and it has not happened again.

You definitely want to drain them early as infection is a real risk. Apparently it can develop into a body-wide infection (septis) in short order, and that is the true health concern/risk with bursitis.

Good luck.


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By kirkadirka
From Boulder
Jul 31, 2013
turkey rocks

Thanks for the comments guys.

I had it drained a few weeks back and got the cortisone shot.

So far it has not come back!


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By Tony B
From Around Boulder, CO
Jul 31, 2013
Got Milk? How about forearm pump? Tony leads "Alan Nelson's Bulging Belly" (5.10, X) on the Lost and Found Flatiron. Belayer is Mark Ruocco. Photo by Bill Wright, 10/06.

I had it really bad once in 2008. It was really bad - looked like a apple under my skin. I've also had it other places.
Ended up getting it drained - volume of fliud was like a few golf-balls. Area after draining looked lie a donut under the skin instead of an apple- test of the fluid showed no infection.
Not sure what brought it on.
IT comes back from time to time now and I notice it when I rest the arm on something and I jump back from the pain - then put my fingers there and feel the "ring" around the end of the joint- only hurts when I bump it, not when I move it these days. Ice does feel good when I do irritate it. I never knew what caused it and never got a good explanation. I have suspected it is auto-immune related. Docs kind of shrug since it isn't a huge complaint.
It is not high on my list of worries and is more annoying than anything.


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By kirkadirka
From Boulder
Aug 19, 2013
turkey rocks

Bursitis is back!

After getting it drained initially I took ~2 weeks off. Then climbed for 2-3 weeks. It's now back, hasn't swelled up to the original size but it is still decent sized and annoying.

For those who had repeated occurrences (Tony and Dan), what did you do (or not do) to make it ultimately go away? Did it just take time? Extended rest? Quit climbing?

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Kirk


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By Tony B
From Around Boulder, CO
Aug 20, 2013
Got Milk? How about forearm pump? Tony leads "Alan Nelson's Bulging Belly" (5.10, X) on the Lost and Found Flatiron. Belayer is Mark Ruocco. Photo by Bill Wright, 10/06.

kirkadirka wrote:
For those who had repeated occurrences (Tony and Dan), what did you do (or not do) to make it ultimately go away? Did it just take time? Extended rest? Quit climbing?

Go away?
"Or not"
What I have found it that avoiding bumping it or resting it on tables or... that's more important then not exercising it, but YMMV. Mine seems to be more out on the funny bone than in the joint so much.


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By Crotch Robbins
Aug 20, 2013

Just curious, have you tried using an ACE bandage or similar compression wrap? That can help when they are small.


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By kirkadirka
From Boulder
Aug 20, 2013
turkey rocks

Hey Crotch,

I went back to the doctor on Monday. He decided not to drain it because "I would be more likely to remember it is there" if he didn't drain it. He prescribed some anti-inflammatory medication and told me to start wearing a brace again. Basically, I've just got a neoprene elbow brace that you can buy at Walgreens. Perhaps an ace wrap would give more compression directly to the site of swelling/fluid?

The doctor was also clear that this is not a very common injury and that they don't know a lot about what causes it. He said recurrences are very common and sometimes they take a long time to go away or even never go away fully. He didn't seem to offer much advice other than resting for 4-6 weeks, wearing a brace, and not hitting the area or resting it on table, desk, etc.

Ultimately I know you can get the bursa removed via surgery but that sounds more like a last resort. Just frustrating that it may take so long and I'm not even sure that not exercising is really going to help.


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By Crotch Robbins
Aug 20, 2013

I had elbow bursitis once, almost certainly from leaning my elbow on the desk. It was about plum sized one day, then a full 24 hours with an ace bandage wrapped around the elbow and things were almost back to normal. It's harder for fluid to enter a potential space against pressure.


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By Tony B
From Around Boulder, CO
Aug 20, 2013
Got Milk? How about forearm pump? Tony leads "Alan Nelson's Bulging Belly" (5.10, X) on the Lost and Found Flatiron. Belayer is Mark Ruocco. Photo by Bill Wright, 10/06.

kirkadirka wrote:
and not hitting the area or resting it on table, desk, etc.

If its your left elbow... where is that while you are driving?
If you rest it on the ledge under the window of the door, look there and see if the padding is worn there - in both my cars I realized I chronically set my elbow there while at cruising speeds, and there is even a 'dent' in the vinyl. I think that is part of the exaggeration for me, so I've stopped doing it.


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By Mike Belu
From Indianapolis, IN
Mar 25, 2014
Summit of Rainier.

It looks like there are folks with elbow experience on this thread, so hopefully you can help me out.

Banged right elbow at the gym 1.5 weeks ago, didn't think anything about it at the time. Next morning it's swollen right where the tricep meets the elbow and right below the elbow toward the forearm, where I banged it.

Still can't completely straighten my arm out or totally bend it. When I try, it seems like the inflammation feels like it's pushing the joint off track, its really tight.

On the inside of the arm, it feels like one of the main tendons is pretty tight too.

Does this sound like what you guys experienced? Two to three weeks for swelling to go down, or did everyone get it drained?

Thanks for any info, have to run to work now.

Mike


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By Tony B
From Around Boulder, CO
Mar 27, 2014
Got Milk? How about forearm pump? Tony leads "Alan Nelson's Bulging Belly" (5.10, X) on the Lost and Found Flatiron. Belayer is Mark Ruocco. Photo by Bill Wright, 10/06.

Give it some time, mayeb a month. Then if you need to, head for a clinic. If it is just killing you, meanwhile, then head on in now. Neither waiting nor draining is likely to have a catastrophic effect. But there is no assurance that draining it will fix a deep bruise anyway, and it is painful and expensive to do (well, not free anyway).


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By Mike Belu
From Indianapolis, IN
Mar 27, 2014
Summit of Rainier.

Thanks Tony,

I did some more online research and I'm not totally sure it's bursitis. The swelling doesn't look that dramatic. I bumped it, on a day that I really pushed myself. Maybe I really strained a tendon or something...

Have a doctors apt Sat morning, but I have low expectations. Maybe I'll get referred to a specialist that can give a good diagnosis. Still hurts and is swollen on the elbow, and inside, plus when I rotate my wrist.

So hopefully it's nothing that rest can't heal.

In the mean time, it's finally going to be nice weather this weekend, so trail running-here I come.


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By Tom Nyce
From Flagstaff, AZ
Mar 27, 2014
Down low, before the Y and the Railroad couloirs separate.

I punctured the bursa at the tip of my elbow, in a fall. It took a few weeks to swell up. It was a painless "bag of fluid" hanging off my elbow. I had it drained (sucked out with a big syringe). It had been infected (lots of puss came out in the fluid).
It seemed good for a while, but the swelling came back (not infected this time though). After some reading, I applied heat (unlike most types of swelling), and used a tight ace bandage for compression. That worked great, and compressed it back down to nothing, avoiding a second drainage session.
Mine was due to injury, but to others: don't read with your elbows on the table, lol.


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By John McNamee
Administrator
From Littleton, CO
Mar 28, 2014
Artist Tears P3

I had a bursa removed by surgery after dealing with this issue for many years. I haven't had a problem since and wish I had taken this action much earlier...


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By Lee Green
Mar 28, 2014

Mike Belu wrote:
...hurts and is swollen on the elbow, and inside, plus when I rotate my wrist...


That's a pretty unusual set of symptoms for bursitis. Best case, subperiosteal hematoma ("bone bruise"). Worst case, olecranon fracture. It certainly needs checking out, and I hope it comes out best case!


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