Student's Elbow (Olecranon Bursitis) - Treatment

What is the treatment for olecranon bursitis?

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.

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Author:
Dr Mary Harding
Peer Reviewer:
Dr John Cox
Document ID:
4604 (v41)
Last Checked:
28 September 2016
Next Review:
28 September 2019

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.