Shoulder Bursitis

Shoulder bursitis is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain. Usually a chronic condition, it is caused by too much stress on the bursa. Shoulder bursae are fluid-filled sacs that surround the shoulder joint, facilitating movement and reducing friction. It can also be caused by an accident, an infection or a pre-existing condition.

Typically, shoulder bursitis is identified by pain (night pain and pain with lifting the arm up), loss of strength and functional and reduced range of motion. It is often accompanied by tendinopathy of the rotator cuff tendons of the affected bursa. Overhead activities are difficult to perform, and pain is usually worse at night causing sleep problems when lying on the affected shoulder.

Shoulder bursitis can be treated with rest, icing, anti-inflammatories, and physical therapy.

For more information on shoulder bursitis and your possible treatment options, call +44 (0) 203 195 2442 to arrange a consultation with the London Shoulder Specialists.

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Causes of Shoulder Bursitis

This injury is most likely to happen with repeated irritation of the bursa, causing chronic bursitis. With this type of bursitis there are usually no predisposing problems and inflammation can occur for no apparent reason. However, sometimes it can be seen in people with a pre-existing condition such as in people who have gout, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and other conditions.

Sometimes, it can occur in athletes after a sudden injury. Called traumatic bursitis or acute traumatic bursitis, it presents with rapid swelling and bruising. For example, if a football player hits their shoulder on artificial turf or a wrestler hits their shoulder on a mat.

Diagnosis of Shoulder Bursitis

Shoulder bursitis can normally be diagnosed by a physical examination. With subacromial bursitis, affecting the large bursa at the tip of the shoulder, there would be a reduced active range of motion. This includes decreased elevation, internal rotation and abduction.

An infected bursa can make you feel very sick, feverish and tired. If you have these symptoms you should seek immediate medical attention.

X-rays may show calcifications if the bursitis is due to calcium build up in the tendon. Soft tissue scans such as ultrasound and MRI may confirm diagnosis and exclude tendon tears.

Frequently Asked Questions on Shoulder Bursitis

The first step in treating chronic bursitis is to reduce the activities that cause inflammation. Inflammation can remain for several weeks, but icing the area regularly and anti-inflammatory medications can provide relief.

A shoulder specialist can inject corticosteroids in and around the bursa to ease the swelling. This can provide some temporary relief although in some patients this may be temporary.

Once the pain has gone away, gentle exercises to improve the range of motion and the movement of the shoulder blade will be part of a rehabilitation treatment plan. This will also include strengthening exercises and a gradual return to activity.

If symptoms do not go away after a period of between six to 12 months, then surgery might be required to repair damage and reduce the pressure in the bursa. Inflamed bursa can be removed in a procedure called a bursectomy that can be performed arthroscopically.

When shoulder bursitis is caused by damage to the rotator cuff muscle or tendon, then surgery can help to correct the damage.

With a subacromial bursa, a subacromial decompression (acromioplasty) surgery is sometimes performed to create more space for the soft tissues around the shoulder blade’s acromion.

If you have further questions about possible treatment options for shoulder bursitis, please arrange a consultation with the London Shoulder Specialists.