Bursitis of the Shoulder

By Mikel Betancourt PTA

Bursitis of the Shoulder

Most people are familiar with the condition, bursitis of the shoulder but are not exactly sure what it is. It is an inflammatory condition that can occur anywhere in our body that has a bursa. A bursa is a fluid filled sac that lies between a bony prominence and muscles or tendons that travel across it. It acts as a cushion to protect the muscle and tendon from rubbing on the bony prominence. Unfortunately, the bursa can become irritated and swollen resulting in bursitis or swelling of the bursa.

Illustration of bursitis of the shoulder. JOI Rehab

Bursitis of the Shoulder

Is Shoulder Bursitis Common?

One of the most common places to have bursitis is in our shoulders. Anatomically our shoulder is designed in such a way that allows for an abundance of motion in multiple planes. It is described as a ball and socket joint formed where the top end of the arm bone (humerus) connects to the side of the shoulder blade(scapula). An upward extension of the shoulder blade (acromion process) is positioned just above this joint. Some of our muscles and tendons cross over the top of the shoulder joint and underneath the acromion process. To avoid too much rubbing or friction of these tendons, we have a bursa known as the sub acromial bursa. Lastly, On the lateral side of our shoulders, we have another bursa that sits between our deltoid muscles and the bony prominence on the side of the upper arm. This one is the subdeltoid bursa.

How does the Bursae become Irritated?

Irritation of these two shoulder bursae are commonly a result of an increase in lifting activities or with performance repetitive overhead reaching (raking, hedging, trimming painting, tennis etc.). Common symptoms are usually pain in the lateral shoulder. Sometimes there is observable swelling. Usually there is tenderness to palpation and pain with raising your arm from your side. Often there can be pain at rest.

How to Treat Shoulder Bursitis

Treatment for this condition usually starts with rest and ice for the first few days. If pain is not improving, over the counter medicine such as Advil or Aleve maybe be helpful if ok with your physician.  If symptoms persist, it might be helpful to see your local doctor to rule out other injuries or conditions that may have similar symptoms. Lastly, An orthopedic doctor would be able to perform a physical examination and if needed order appropriate diagnostic test to determine the origin of your pain.

Icing of the shoulder is the first response to bursitis. JOI Rehab

Man Icing Shoulder

How can You Recover Fast from Bursitis?

To speed up the recovery process you can receive a referral to outpatient rehab clinic to work with a licensed physical or occupational therapist. The therapist will give an initiation of exercises to address underlying strength or mobility issues that may be contributing to your condition. In addition to, Massage, heat, ice, laser and e-stim can also be effective treatment methods to help reduce your symptoms as well.

Written By: Mikel Betancourt PTA

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