Guide to shoulder bursitis

Shoulder Bursitis: A Detailed Overview

Shoulder bursitis is a common shoulder condition that affects the small, fluid-filled sacs known as bursae, located near the shoulder joints. These bursae play a crucial role in reducing friction between bones, tendons, and muscles, facilitating smooth movement.

When these sacs become inflamed, it results in shoulder bursitis, causing pain and discomfort. In this detailed overview, we will explore the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, prevention strategies, and the role of lifestyle changes in managing shoulder bursitis.

What is shoulder bursitis?

Shoulder bursitis, also referred to as subacromial bursitis, occurs when the bursae in the shoulder become irritated and inflamed. The shoulder has several bursae, but the subacromial bursa is the most commonly affected. This bursa is situated between the rotator cuff tendons and the acromion, the bone at the top of the shoulder.

What causes shoulder bursitis?

Several factors can contribute to the development of shoulder bursitis. Repetitive overhead movements, such as those seen in certain sports or occupations, can lead to irritation and inflammation. Trauma or injury to the shoulder, underlying conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, and bacterial infections are also potential causes. Additionally, age-related changes in the shoulder joint may increase the risk of bursitis.

What are the symptoms of shoulder bursitis?

The hallmark symptom of shoulder bursitis is pain, which is often felt on the outer side of the shoulder. This pain may intensify with specific movements, such as lifting the arm overhead. Swelling and tenderness around the affected area, as well as restricted range of motion, are also common symptoms. In some cases, individuals may experience aching or stiffness, making everyday activities challenging.

How is shoulder arthritis bursitis diagnosed?

Diagnosing shoulder bursitis typically involves a thorough examination by your London Shoulder Specialist. During your consultation they will discuss your symptoms, perform a physical examination, and order imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI scans to rule out other potential causes of shoulder pain. Fluid may also be extracted from the bursa for analysis to confirm the diagnosis.

What are the treatment options for shoulder bursitis?

Treatment for shoulder bursitis aims to reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, and improve shoulder function. Conservative approaches include rest, ice therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and physical therapy. Corticosteroid injections may be recommended for more severe cases to provide targeted relief. Modifying activities to prevent further irritation may be recommended.

Can shoulder bursitis be prevented?

While it may not be possible to prevent shoulder bursitis entirely, there are steps individuals can take to minimise their risk. Proper warm-up exercises before engaging in repetitive overhead activities, maintaining good posture, and incorporating shoulder-strengthening exercises into a regular fitness routine can help reduce the likelihood of developing bursitis.

Is surgery always necessary for shoulder bursitis?

Surgery is typically considered a last resort for shoulder bursitis and is reserved for cases that do not respond to conservative treatments. Surgical interventions may involve removing the inflamed bursa or addressing underlying issues such as bone spurs. Most individuals find relief with non-surgical methods, and surgery is only recommended when other options have been exhausted.

Understanding shoulder bursitis involves recognising its causes, symptoms, and available treatments. While surgery is not always necessary, conservative measures including lifestyle modifications can significantly contribute to managing and preventing shoulder bursitis.