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Shoulder Bursitis

The Shoulder joint has a lot of ways it can move, and so, your arm can move through large ranges of motion. Because of the brilliant design of the shoulder, our arms can turn, twist, push, pull, and lift objects overhead, and cross our bodies, in front, or behind us. “The Rotator Cuff” is the system the body uses to keep your arm secure whenever you are moving it. Located within the rotator cuff are small fluid-filled sacs called bursae. These sacs act as cushions to help reduce friction during movement between the bones and overlying soft tissues.

Excessive, uneven use of the shoulder joint sometimes leads to too much pressure on a bursa that then becomes inflamed and swollen. Most commonly, this happens to the subacromial bursa within the rotator cuff. If you irritate a bursa and cause bursitis, you are not going to enjoy life for a while!

Causes and Risk Factors

Bursitis is generally not caused by a trauma. Usually, bursitis is caused by repetitive, minor impact on the area that increases friction and irritates the bursa. 

  • Age can cause tendons to lose their elasticity and become more prone to overuse injuries. This is accelerated by poor posture and uneven use.

  • A history of injury or stress on the rotator cuff tendons.

  • High-risk activities that involve heavy shoulder use, especially, if improper form is used: these include yard work, painting, carpentry, and sports that involve throwing or pitching.

  • Incorrect posture or lifting technique.

  • Not warming up before exercise.​

What does Shoulder Bursitis feel like?

If a shoulder is affected by bursitis (especially subacromial bursitis), the most common symptoms are pain, inflammation, and swelling in the affected shoulder. It can also cause a pinching pain when the elbow is moved away from the body and you raise your arms, this is known as impingement sign.


Other common symptoms of shoulder bursitis include:

  • Redness and swelling.

  • Weakness and reduced range of motion in the affected shoulder.

  • Worsening pain while sleeping or when pushing, pulling, or lifting.

  • Popping or crunching noises during shoulder movement.

Traditional Treatment

Traditional treatment methods are aimed at decreasing your pain and inflammation. Your Medical Doctor may suggest a combination of rest, wrapping the affected shoulder, and using ice packs to reduce swelling and pain. Drugs (like Aspirin and ibuprofen) are commonly suggested to reduce pain and swelling. Physical therapy can sometimes be used to aid the recovery from bursitis, especially when it is accompanied by another injury such as frozen shoulder.

For most patients, conservative treatment with rest and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help. In rare or severe injuries, corticosteroid injections or surgery may be recommended.

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