If you are experiencing shoulder pain, you may be wondering about the underlying cause. Bursitis shoulder is a painful and troublesome condition that can seriously impede your ability to use your arm and shoulder. While it can affect anyone, bursitis of the shoulder is particularly prevalent in older people and athletes. In this article, we will walk you through the key causes and symptoms of bursitis shoulder, along with effective treatments to help you get rid of bursitis shoulder pain, tenderness, and swelling.
Bursitis shoulder is an inflammation of the bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac in your shoulder joint. Bursitis in shoulder joints causes tenderness and pain and reduces your ability to move your shoulder.
About the Bursa
When we think of joints, we tend to focus on connected bones. What we don’t always consider the tendons, muscles, and ligaments that allow our joints to function properly.
The bursa is a tiny sac filled with fluid, which acts as a cushion between for the joints’ tissues. Altogether, there are 160 bursae in the human body. They are found in key joints, including the shoulders, knees, and hips.
In the shoulder, the subacromial bursa is most likely to become inflamed. This is the bursa that sits between the coracoacromial ligament and the supraspinatus muscle, the small muscle that runs along from the shoulder blade. Also present in the tissues of the shoulder joint is the subdeltoid bursa, though it is less commonly affected.
As there are bursae in other joints in your body, it is also possible to develop bursitis of the knee, hip, or elbow.
Difference Between Tendonitis and Bursitis in Shoulder
Both tendonitis and bursitis refer to inflammation of certain soft tissues in the shoulder. Both can cause significant pain. It is possible to have both an inflamed tendon and bursa in shoulder joints. As the symptoms can be similar, you’ll likely need a professional diagnosis.
What Causes Bursitis in the Shoulder?
Bursitis of the shoulder is often caused by repeated microtrauma to the shoulder. This is particularly common among athletes, especially those participating in sports that involve overarm throws.
Shoulder injuries can also cause bursitis. A direct impact to the shoulder or a fall in which you land largely on your shoulder can lead to inflammation of the shoulder bursa.
The most common shoulder bursitis causes are:
Repeated microtrauma to the shoulder joint
Overuse of the shoulder, particularly during sports or manual labour
Sudden and direct impacts and injuries
Underlying rheumatic conditions
Infections (septic bursitis)
Shoulder impingement syndrome
Risk Factors for Shoulder Bursitis
Certain people are at greater risk of experiencing bursitis of the shoulder due to their lifestyle or work.
Athletes who frequently participate in javelin, shot put, tennis, basketball, or baseball are aet particular risk. Sports that involve sharp and forceful movements of the shoulder make shoulder bursitis a stronger possibility. Frequent participation in such sports can lead to overuse and microtrauma, among the most common causes of shoulder bursitis.
Inexperienced or amateur sportsman may also be at a higher risk. People who rush to get fit often perform exercises improperly way, increasing the likelihood of sustaining an injury. Avoid poor technique by starting slow, attending a group class, or even taking one-to-one lessons. And don’t attempt to lift too much weight before you’ve developed a solid foundation of strength and proper form.
Manual laborers, such as construction workers, painters, or decorators, are also more likely to develop shoulder bursitis. Heavy lifting and frequent overarm work, such as painting ceilings, can cause strain and pressure on your shoulder.
Older people are at greater risk of falling, which is another common cause of shoulder bursitis. Falling can cause shoulder impact or place our arm in an awkward position. Such an injury can lead to bursitis, as well as shoulder tendonitis. Since the majority of falls happen in the bathroom, practicing good bathroom safety is crucial to preventing injury.
Seniors are also at risk of an injury because of weak muscles and joints. To remedy this, begin a safe, low-impact exercise program, such as chair exercise.
Those with Prior Injuries
Shoulder impingement syndrome can cause or exacerbate damage to the tendons and bursa. Shoulder impingement syndrome is a condition in which the tendons in the rotator cuff become trapped and inflamed. If you are suffering from chronic shoulder pain or problems, speak to your doctor for further advice and a professional diagnosis.
Bursitis Shoulder Symptoms
Bursitis shoulder pain can be frustrating and debilitating. Shoulder bursitis symptoms often come on gradually, particularly when caused by overuse. If you are suffering from one or more of the symptoms below, consult your doctor for a formal diagnosis and treatment plan.
Pain on the outside of your shoulder
Pain that spreads down the arm
Significant pain when lying or sleeping on your shoulder
Pain or difficulty moving your arm upwards and outwards
Difficulty using your arm and shoulder
Bursitis Shoulder Diagnosis
In order to diagnose shoulder bursitis or other conditions, your doctor will perform a physical examination. He or she will ask questions about the pain, swelling, and other symptoms.
Sometimes, a manual examination can identify bursitis. If more information is needed, your doctor will order other tests, such as an ultrasound or MRI.
Less commonly, X-rays are used to detect calcification of the bursa. Your doctor may consider this necessary if you report chronic symptoms.
Bursitis Shoulder Treatment
If you are suffering from shoulder pain caused by bursitis, there are a number of steps you can take, both immediately and in the long-term. Here are the most common remedies for bursitis of the shoulder.
Consulting a sports injury specialist, if you are an athlete
Following a rehabilitation program
As you can see, there are plenty of natural treatments for bursitis shoulder. Start by resting and relaxing the arm and applying ice. If you require pain relief for shoulder bursitis, take anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen.
If your symptoms persist, more serious measures may be needed. The best treatment for shoulder bursitis will depend on the specific cause of your bursitis. For this reason, it is always a good idea to speak to your doctor.
Cortisone Injections for Shoulder Bursitis
If other forms of pain relief haven’t worked, your doctor may recommend a cortisone injection. A cortisone shot will decrease inflammation. Other medication to reduce pain may also be included in the shot.
This is a straightforward procedure using a thin needle. An ultrasound may be used to help guide the doctor to the bursa.
Physical Therapy for Shoulder Bursitis
After a period of rest, it may be safe to begin light stretches or exercises. Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy and may refer you to a physiotherapist.
Exercises for Shoulder Bursitis
Exercise aids in your recovery and will help you regain full mobility in your shoulder joint. However, poor exercise technique and overuse of the shoulder can exacerbate and even cause further shoulder pain and problems, so it is crucial to start slow and follow your doctor’s instructions.
Improving your posture is a great way to tackle shoulder problems, and it will help you recover from shoulder bursitis. Try this simple exercise to improve your posture.
Step 1: Sit up straight in a chair, with your elbows bent at 90 degrees and your hands and forearms resting on a table.
Step 2: Staying in this position, gently squeeze your shoulder blades together.
Step 3: Hold for three seconds. Repeat 10 times.
Abduction with Resistance Band
There are a number of arm and shoulder exercises you can perform with a resistance band, which is an economical but effective tool for your fitness program. Abduction exercises are particularly beneficial for treating and preventing bursitis shoulder.
Step 1: Hold one end of the training band in your hand.
Step 2: Stand on the band with one or both feet.
Step 3: Keeping your elbow straight, but without locking your arm uncomfortably, lift your arm out to the side and away from the body.
Shoulder Bursitis Surgery
Although surgery is not commonly required for bursitis of the shoulder, aspiration is a common and useful procedure. Aspiration involves draining excess fluid from the bursa. A needle is inserted into the bursa and then used to extract the fluid.
A cortisone injection may be given at the same time as the aspiration procedure to help fight inflammation.
Less common types of shoulder bursitis surgery include bursectomies, subacromial decompressions, and other procedures to repair the tendons or muscles.
Treatment for Infected (Septic) Bursitis
Septic shoulder bursitis is uncommon, but can be serious. Aside from the usual symptoms, you may experience fever and nausea.
The treatment for septic bursitis differs slightly from the treatment for non-septic shoulder bursitis. In particular, you will likely be prescribed antibiotics to deal with the infection. Aspiration may also be necessary to drain the bursa.
Shoulder Braces for Bursitis
Shoulder braces help you prevent and heal shoulder bursitis. If you have suffered from shoulder bursitis, a shoulder brace is the perfect tool to aid recovery.
A brace provides additional support during rehabilitation stretches and exercises. Following recovery, wearing a brace during sports reduces the likelihood of further injury.
There are several types of shoulder brace available. Talk to your doctor to determine the type of brace that’s best for you.
Shoulder braces prevent dangerous movement that can exacerbate your shoulder pain and further damage the joint. (See Product on Amazon)
A shoulder sling immobilizes the shoulder after a major impact or injury.
Using a shoulder sling relieve pressure on the joint to prevent further damage and to encourage healing. ( See Product on Amazon)
A posture corrector can be strapped around your shoulders and back to improve posture and overall back and shoulder health.
A posture corrector addresses the root cause of shoulder pain and can prevent bursitis shoulder altogether. ( See Product on Amazon)
Shoulder Bursitis Recovery Time
Will shoulder bursitis go away? Yes! With proper treatment, most make a complete recovery. Even better, the shoulder bursitis recovery usually only takes weeks or months.
Mild or moderate bursitis, without the need for surgery, may take a couple weeks to heal. Aspiration or cortisone injections will help you make a full recovery, but such procedures may increase your recovery time by a few weeks.
Expect to follow your rehabilitation program for at least six weeks. In that time, you will gradually build your strength and mobility. Always follow your doctor’s advice and allow your shoulder to rest.
Although it’s tempting to rush back to sports or exercise, doing so can damage your shoulder further and prolong your recovery time.
Getting Over Bursitis Shoulder
The road to recovery from shoulder bursitis doesn’t need to be long. Give your shoulder rest, and reintroduce exercises gently. Use the information in this guide to identify and treat your bursitis of the shoulder. But remember to consult a medical professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
Jessica Hegg is the content manager at ViveHealth.com. Avid gym-rat and nutrition enthusiast, she’s interested in all things related to staying active and living healthy lifestyle. Through her writing she works to share valuable information aimed at overcoming obstacles and improving the quality of life for others.
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