Student's Elbow (Olecranon Bursitis) - Treatment

Authored by Dr Mary Harding, 28 Sep 2016

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Dr John Cox, 28 Sep 2016

In many cases, olecranon bursitis clears up on its own with simple care such as resting the elbow, avoiding pressure on it, and applying ice packs. Some people find a compression bandage on the elbow makes it more comfortable. As long as there is no infection, over time most cases of olecranon bursitis will then settle on their own.

Other treatments advised in some cases include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medication (such as ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, etc) may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and swelling. Paracetamol is another option if the elbow is painful.
  • Draining the fluid (aspiration) can be done with a needle and syringe if a lot of fluid builds up. However, the fluid tends to build up again after being drained. Therefore, you may be advised to wear a tight pressure bandage for a while after the fluid has been drained, to prevent it building up again.
  • A steroid injection into the bursa may cure the problem. Steroids are good at reducing inflammation. However, steroid injections sometimes cause infection in the bursa.
  • Surgery to remove the bursa is an option if the above do not work.
  • Antibiotics are needed if the cause of the bursitis is an infection. Normally an antibiotic such as flucloxacillin or erythromycin is used until the results of the tests on the aspirated fluid are available. Then the choice of treatment can be changed if necessary and directed at the exact germs (bacteria) causing the infection. Flucloxacillin and erythromycin treat the most common types of germs which cause olecranon bursitis.

If you protect the elbow from excessive friction and rubbing it may prevent further bouts of bursitis. This may mean using elbow pads if you need to lean on your elbows whilst working.

Further reading and references

I am an active 63 years and have had a very painful elbow on the inside bone for about four months, stopped pickle ball and golf. Went to the Doctor after a couple months wearing elbow band and he...

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