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Shoulder Bursitis

What is Shoulder Bursitis?

Pain in shoulder Shoulder bursitis refers to an inflamed shoulder bursa – a fluid-filled sac which reduces friction in the shoulder spaces. The bursa most commonly associated with bursitis is the subacromial bursa.

A closely related condition with a common set of symptoms, including inflammation of the shoulder joint, is rotator cuff tendonitis. Both bursitis and tendonitis are “impingment syndromes,” indicating inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons and/or the bursa which surround the tendons.

Shoulder Bursitis Causes

  • Pinching of the bursa of the rotator cuff between bones
  • Thickening of the bursa
  • An injury or infection which leads to inflammation of the bursa
  • Overuse of the shoulder joint
  • Significant trauma (i.e. a fall)
  • Age (40 years+)
  • High-risk activities such as throwing, pitching, tennis, golf, carpentry, shoveling, painting, scrubbing
  • Stress from other conditions such as thyroid disorders and rheumatoid arthritis

Shoulder Bursitis Symptoms

  • Shoulder stiffness
  • Shoulder pain which gradually worsens over several weeks or months
  • Pain may be acute or chronic
  • Pain on the outside of the shoulder which may radiate down the arm to the elbow or wrist
  • Tenderness when pressing on the shoulder joint
  • Pain worse with overhead movements (i.e. dressing, washing hair, throwing, reaching)
  • Difficulty holding arm outward
  • Pain worse at night and when lying on the affected shoulder
  • Commonly co-exists with tendonitis or rotator cuff tears

Shoulder Bursitis Treatment

Shoulder bursitis is treated with a combination of:

  • Rest
  • Avoiding activities which aggravate the shoulder joint
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Ice/cold packs to reduce pain and swelling
  • Steroid injections
  • Physical therapy, including range-of-motion exercises
  • Surgery in extreme cases (if bursitis does not respond to other treatments)

How to Prevent Shoulder Bursitis

Shoulder bursitis, as well as rotator cuff problems, can be preventing by addressing factors such as posture, shoulder stability, rotator cuff strength, and muscle length. Consult with a physiotherapist for specific exercises you can do at home to prevent shoulder pain and bursitis.