10 Best Natural Remedies & Home Treatments for Bursitis...

Want to get rid of that awful bursitis fast and prevent this problem from occurring again? Here's 10 home remedies and natural supplements for treating bursitis of the knee, shoulder, elbow and hip that you definitely should consider...

Article by Troy Sawyer (Certified Holistic Nutritionist, Health & Wellness Coach, Sports Nutritionist)

Updated April 16, 2024 -- This post contains affiliate links  

Best natural home remedies for bursitis

Bursitis is a condition where the knee, shoulder, elbow, hip, ankle or heel joint becomes inflamed and swollen. The base of the big toe is another spot where bursitis can also rear its ugly head. Other common names for bursitis (relating to the knee) include Housemaid’s Knee, Baker’s Cyst and Clergyman’s Knee. This condition occurs most often in joints that are involved in recurrent and repetitive movements, with the knee being the most frequently affected. Symptoms of bursitis include pain, swelling and stiffness in and around the joint. 

What Causes Bursitis?

“Bursae” (pronounced bur-SEE) are fluid-filled protective sacks found next to the joints and in between bones. These cavities are designed to lubricate and cushion the area in and around the joint where friction occurs. When this sack becomes inflamed and swollen, the joint becomes painful and tender. Joint mobility is usually restricted as a result. There are 150 bursae located throughout the body, however, the majority rarely cause any problems. The bursae that do become inflamed and cause the most problems are nearly always found in the knees, shoulders, hip and elbow joints - where the most wear and tear occurs. There are also varying degrees of bursitis. This condition can range from mild to chronic to severely incapacitating.

The most common causes of bursitis are repetitive movements and/or excess pressure on the joints. Bumping or bruising of the joint can also cause bursitis. Athletes are particularly prone to this condition, as are individuals who work in physically demanding jobs and perform repetitive movements such as carpenters, bricklayers, musicians and gardeners. Other causes of bursitis include joint injury and inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout. Thankfully, getting rid of bursitis and its accompanying symptoms is quite easy to do. Whether you have acute bursitis or a severe case, the way to treat and reverse this problem quickly is still the same.

Here’s 10 of the most effective methods, supplements and home remedies…

Natural Remedy for Bursitis #1… Rest:

Yes, this one is common sense really, but you would be surprized just how many people carry on doing what they were doing previously thinking that the problem will just magically resolve itself. Unfortunately it won’t. If you’re suffering from bursitis, rest the joint as much as you can until the pain and swelling goes down. Of course, depending on your work or other commitments you may not be in a position to rest it fully - just do the best that you can. If you’re bursitis is caused from a sporting activity or exercise then you have no option… you must rest. If a certain movement is painful then be sure to avoid performing that movement as well. Remember, pain is a warning sign, it’s the body’s way of saying “there’s a problem so fix it”. Don’t ignore this sign. 

Home Remedy for Bursitis #2… Ice/Cold Compress:

Applying ice or a cold compress to your bursitis within the first 24 to 48 hours is crucial to the speed at which it heals. The coolness of the ice pack helps to reduce the initial swelling along with the soreness and tenderness. All you do is wrap 4-6 ice cubes in a tea towel then lightly dampen the towel (this accelerates the coolness of the ice and towel). Apply this to the affected area/joint for 15 to 20 minutes. Elevate the joint after you finish to prevent further swelling. Continue to do this several times to reduce the swelling and to give yourself some much needed pain relief.   

How to Get Rid of Bursitis Remedy #3… Heat/Warm Compress:

While a cold compress provides initial pain relief and reduces the swelling, a warm compress gets the blood flowing to help reduce stiffness in the joint and get the excess fluid in the bursa moving. A heat pack should only be applied after 48 hours of developing bursitis. For this, wet a cloth or towel with hot water (as hot as you can handle it) and apply to the affected area for 10 minutes. Wet the towel again after this amount of time so it’s nice and warm/hot again and reapply for another 10 minutes. You can also use a hot water bottle for this if you have one, which works better because the water stays hotter for longer. Heat packs or heating pads can be effective as well. 

Natural Treatment for Bursitis #4… Hot/Cold Towel Method:

This is my personal favorite, and it works like a charm. I suffered a serious knee injury when I was younger playing sport and ended up with bursitis (Baker’s cyst) really bad in that knee. In fact, it was so bad and so swollen that I couldn’t apply any pressure to it and could barely walk. Not knowing much back then I didn’t apply ice to the injury within the first 48 hours. I didn’t do anything except visit a doctor who advised that the fluid would need to be taken out. After going into his store room, he returned with a giant needle and syringe and then proceeded to suck the fluid out of my knee. It was crazy painful! I vowed to never have this done again. Thankfully, a friend told me about this remedy for bursitis and/or fluid in the joints that football players regularly use, which is basically a combination of the first two remedies listed above.

So what you need to do is get two buckets. Fill one with cold water and one with hot water. Place a medium sized towel or rag in each bucket. Taking the hot towel first, scrunch it into a clump and apply this to the affected area (yes dripping wet) and keep it pressed down firmly. Leave on for 30 seconds then place back in the hot water bucket. Take the cold towel and apply this to the affected area for 30 seconds straight after. Continue to alternate with the hot and cold towels until you’ve done this at least 10 times in total (10 times for the hot towel, 10 times for the cold towel). Repeat this process 3 times throughout the day, morning, noon and night if possible.

The great thing about this treatment is it can be done at any time - regardless of when you first developed your bursitis – and it will still work! The way it works is the heat gets the blood flowing and thins out the cystic fluid, then the coolness gets the excess fluid moving out of the bursa sac and the joint. The secret to this treatment is you must have the hot water as hot as you can handle it (without giving yourself third degree burns of course). If your skin is not red when you finish doing this exercise then it wasn’t hot enough! Also, because of the amount of water that’s spilled, it’s recommended that you do this exercise outside. It can be a little messy.

You can read more about this terrific remedy in our Q&A section if you’re interested… Best Natural and Home Remedies for a Baker’s Cyst

Natural Remedy for Bursitis #5… Milk of Magnesia (MOM):

Taking milk of magnesia every day is a definite “must do” if you have bursitis. The main cause and initial trigger for bursitis is a magnesium deficiency. When the body is low in magnesium, calcified deposits develop in the joints, causing bursitis and other joint problems. Magnesium gets rid of these deposits - and gets rid of them quickly - which in turn alleviates swollen joint problems and bursitis. Magnesium also contains powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties too.

There are lots of different forms of magnesium, however, milk of magnesia seems work the best for bursitis and is one of the most absorbable. Take a tablespoon of MOM (here’s what it looks like) twice daily for 7 days or a teaspoon every 8 hours for 7 days. After this, continue to take a teaspoon twice daily every day to keep your joints healthy and to keep your bursitis away. Vitamin D3 and the trace mineral boron are also crucial for the absorption of magnesium so find yourself a good quality vitamin D and boron supplement. Take a minimum of 3000 IU’s of vitamin D and 7-10 mgs of boron each day. Do this and you’ll not only get rid of your bursitis fast, you’ll never have to worry about having this problem ever again. Guaranteed! 

Natural Treatment for Bursitis #6… Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) & Black Strap Molasses (BSM):

The ACV and unsulphured black strap molasses combo is another powerful and effective treatment for bursitis. Apple cider vinegar restores alkalinity to the body (positive pH) and contains healthy amounts of joint healing nutrients including magnesium, calcium, potassium and phosphorous. Black strap molasses is also alkaline boosting and is rich in crucial magnesium, along with calcium, iron, boron, copper, manganese, B6 and selenium. For this remedy, all you do is add a tablespoon of raw organic apple cider vinegar with the mother (like these) and a teaspoon of unsulphured black strap molasses to a glass of warm filtered water. Stir until the BSM is fully dissolved then drink down. Be sure to drink this concoction twice daily on an empty stomach for at least 7 to 10 days, then to keep your bursitis away, continue to have two teaspoons of the ACV and one teaspoon of the black strap molasses each day in a glass of water to help maintain the alkalinity in your body.   

Note: For an extra shot of alkalinity and for extra fast healing and relief, you can also add ½ teaspoon of baking soda to the mix. Baking soda is pH boosting as well, however, only take this for the first 7-10 days as this will be enough to give your body the alkalinity “kick” it needs to heal your bursitis fast. Taking baking soda all the time can actually cause your body to become too alkaline, something you don’t want to happen. 

How to Get Rid of Bursitis Remedy #7… Castor Oil:

Castor oil is an excellent topical remedy for bursitis. It contains a substance called ricinoleic acid, a very potent anti-inflammatory and pain reliever. To use, soak a face towel, flannel or wash cloth in some hexane free cold pressed castor oil (does not need to be dripping wet only saturated). Place this on the affected joint/bursitis and cover gently with some plastic wrap to prevent staining of clothes, sheets, etc. Leave on for 45 minutes to an hour then remove. Take the excess castor oil and gently rub this on the affected area for extra benefit and relief. Be sure to do this once a day, preferably at night for best results.

Home Remedy for Bursitis #8… Turmeric and Ginger:

Turmeric ginger bursitis treatment

Turmeric and ginger are two of the top anti-inflammatory herbs/foods in existence. Both contain powerful anti-swelling and analgesic properties that help reverse inflammation in the body and promote rapid healing of inflamed joints. Ginger contains pain-relieving qualities similar to those found in aspirin and ibuprofen. Turmeric is regularly prescribed for the treatment of acute or chronic pain.

Buy some ginger root, cut 3-4 slices and place in a cup of boiled water. Leave to steep for 20 minutes then drink down. With the turmeric, add a heaped teaspoon to a cup of coconut milk and warm/boil until the turmeric dissolves. Add a teaspoon of natural or manuka honey for taste then slowly sip. You can also add a few slices of ginger to this drink for extra benefit as well. In addition, purchase some of the high strength turmeric & ginger capsules and take one to two of these per day to reduce the swelling even faster.  

Natural Remedy for Bursitis #9… DMSO (Dimethyl Sulfoxide):

Renowned M.D., Dr Andrew Weil, recommends DMSO for treating bursitis. Dimethyl sulfoxide is a derivative of wood pulp and is a very powerful anti-inflammatory and pain reliever. Used as a topical remedy, it penetrates the skin and gets deep inside the swollen joint to calm down and diffuse the areas of inflammation. You can find DMSO in either liquid, cream or gel form. Either buy the 70% DMSO solution or dilute down to a 70% solution and apply this to the affected area. Gently rub in. The DMSO will feel warm on the skin when first applied. This is normal. Continue to apply the DMSO at least once during the day (preferably twice) until your bursitis is gone.

How to Get Rid of Bursitis Remedy #10… White Willow Bark:

White willow bark is a popular ancient folk remedy for joint pain and bursitis and is regularly prescribed by many natural health practioners. It contains a remarkable substance called salicin, a strong pain reliever and anti-inflammatory agent. The ancient Egyptians and Greeks regularly took white willow bark for pain relief and used it to treat inflammation. Today, it’s still routinely used for treating complaints such as headaches, arthritis, and general joint pain. There are two ways to take white willow bark. Either buy it in capsule form and take 400 mg’s daily, or purchase the dried extract powder and add a teaspoon to a glass of juice or a smoothie. If you don’t mind the taste you can simply add a teaspoon to a glass of water.

Additional Tips and Remedies for Treating and Getting Rid of Bursitis for Good…

· Eliminate all man-made refined and processed foods, processed oils (canola, safflower, sunflower, soybean, corn oil, Crisco, etc) and junk food. These toxic disaster foods create inflammation in the body, something you definitely don’t won’t if you have bursitis. 

· Eat plenty of anti-inflammatory foods including fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables, herbs, seeds and nuts. Along with ginger and turmeric, consume plenty of anti-inflammatory herbs and spices such as garlic, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cloves, sage, rosemary and oregano. 

· According to ancient Ayurvedic medicine, all inflammatory conditions first begin in the gut (70% of your immune system is actually located in your gut so this makes sense). Heal your gut and you will heal your bursitis and inflammation, that’s the rub. So taking a good quality wheat grass powder supplement, along with probiotics is crucial. Wheat grass is rich in chlorophyll, a powerful anti-inflammatory and gut healer. Probiotics are essential for gut and immune health. 

· Cushion the joint with a pillow while sleeping. Sleep is one of the most important times for rest and healing, however, laying on or aggravating your bursitis while sleeping can make it worse (you may have already experienced this after waking up and finding your bursitis/joint worse than it was before you went to bed). If you have knee bursitis (baker’s cyst), place a pillow between your knees. 

· Avoid applying pressure or overextending the affected joint until it heals. 

· Stop and take regular breaks from repetitive activities. Do some light stretching and move the joints back and forth to maintain fluidity.      

· Once the joint has healed, perform strengthening exercises using resistance bands or do regular weight training exercises to help maintain healthy joints and ligaments. Be sure to always warm up and stretch for at least 10 minutes beforehand to prevent any injury. 1  

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