Shoulder Bursitis


Shoulder bursitis is a common condition that occurs when the small fluid-filled sacs, called bursae, located in the shoulder joint become inflamed. This condition affects people of all ages and can cause pain, swelling, and limited movement.

Understanding Shoulder Bursitis

Shoulder bursitis is a common condition that occurs when the bursa of the shoulder joint becomes inflamed. The bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac that cushions the joint and allows for smooth movement of the bone. When the bursa becomes inflamed, it can cause shoulder pain and discomfort in the affected area, making it difficult to perform daily activities.

The inflammation of the bursa can be caused by a variety of factors, including repetitive motions, trauma, age-related degeneration, and certain medical conditions. These factors can lead to irritation and inflammation of the bursa, resulting in shoulder bursitis.

shoulder bursitis can be caused by repeat motion
Photo Credit: luis_molinero

Shoulder bursitis can be a result of injury, overuse, or degeneration. Athletes, swimmers, and people who perform repetitive movements such as painters and carpenters, are at higher risk of developing shoulder bursitis. It can also be caused by rheumatoid arthritis, gout, or an infection.

The condition can affect anyone, regardless of age or activity level. However, certain individuals are at higher risk of developing shoulder bursitis due to their occupation or lifestyle. These include athletes, swimmers, painters, carpenters, and individuals who engage in repetitive motions daily.

Understanding the cause and symptoms of shoulder bursitis is the first step in identifying and treating the condition. Individuals can easily alleviate their symptoms and resume their daily activities with proper diagnosis and treatment.

Symptoms of Shoulder Bursitis

Shoulder bursitis typically causes pain and discomfort around the shoulder joint and upper arm. The symptoms can range from mild to severe, and often become worse with repetitive movements or pressure on the affected area. Some of the common signs and symptoms of shoulder bursitis include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the shoulder joint that worsens with movement or pressure
  • Swelling or inflammation in the affected area
  • Stiffness or limited range of motion in the shoulder
  • Difficulty sleeping on the affected side
  • Weakness in the affected arm

The affected area may sometimes feel warm, red, or bruised. It is important to seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.

Shoulder bursitis is more commonly seen in individuals who perform repetitive overhead activities, such as athletes, musicians, and painters.

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you experience severe pain or swelling in the shoulder joint, or if the symptoms persist despite rest and self-care measures, it is important to seek medical attention. Additionally, seek immediate medical attention if you experience sudden and severe pain, difficulty breathing, or chest pain, as it may be a sign of a more serious condition.

Causes of Shoulder Bursitis

shoulder bursitis pain can be the result of an injury
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Shoulder bursitis is a condition that can be caused by a range of factors. Here are some of the possible causes:

  1. Repetitive motions: Repetitive overhead movements of the arms and shoulders, such as those performed by painters, carpenters, and athletes, can lead to shoulder bursitis due to the constant pressure on the bursa sac.
  2. Trauma: Injuries to the shoulder, such as falls, direct blows, or car accidents, can cause shoulder bursitis.
  3. Age-related degeneration: Our joints and muscles can weaken and degenerate as we age, making us more prone to conditions like shoulder bursitis.
  4. Medical conditions: Underlying medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and diabetes, can increase the risk of developing shoulder bursitis.
  5. Incorrect posture: Poor posture can cause unnecessary stress on the shoulder joint, leading to inflammation of the bursa sac and shoulder bursitis.

It’s important to note that sometimes the exact cause of shoulder bursitis may not be clear and may require medical consultation to determine the underlying cause.

Treatment Options for Shoulder Bursitis

Shoulder bursitis is a painful condition that can significantly impact daily life. Fortunately, various treatment options are available to alleviate symptoms and promote healing.

Non-Surgical Treatments

Non-surgical treatments are often the first line of defense against shoulder bursitis. These approaches aim to reduce inflammation and pain, allowing the injured area to heal.

  • Rest: Avoiding activities that aggravate the shoulder can help reduce pain and allow the bursa to heal.
  • Ice: Applying ice to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and pain. Applying ice for 15-20 minutes at a time several times daily can relieve pain.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can provide exercises and stretches to help strengthen the shoulder muscles and improve range of motion.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications: Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or naproxen can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.

Surgical Options

In rare cases, shoulder bursitis may require surgical intervention. This is typically reserved for severe cases that do not respond to non-surgical treatments.

shoulder bursitis pain treatment with surgery
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Surgery for shoulder bursitis involves removing inflamed tissue or the bursa itself to reduce pain and inflammation. Recovery time can vary based on the extent of the surgery and the individual’s overall health.

If you think you may need surgery, speak with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of the procedure.

Exercises for Shoulder Bursitis Rehabilitation

If you have been diagnosed with shoulder bursitis, your healthcare provider has likely recommended exercises to help you recover. Rehabilitation exercises can effectively alleviate symptoms, promote healing, and prevent future recurrences of shoulder bursitis. Here are some exercises that can help with your shoulder bursitis rehabilitation:

1. Shoulder Blade Squeeze

This exercise helps strengthen the muscles around your shoulders and upper back, improving your posture and providing stability for your shoulder joint.

  1. Sit or stand with your back straight, shoulders relaxed, and arms at your sides.
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, as if you’re trying to hold a pencil between them.
  3. Hold for 5-10 seconds, then release.
  4. Repeat 10-15 times.

2. Wall Pushup

This exercise strengthens the muscles in your chest, shoulders, and arms, helping to improve your overall upper body strength and stability.

  1. Stand facing a wall, with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms straight out in front of you, palms flat against the wall.
  2. Bend your elbows and lower your upper body toward the wall, keeping your back straight and your core engaged.
  3. Push yourself back up to the starting position.
  4. Repeat 10-15 times.

3. Internal and External Rotation Stretch

These stretches help improve the range of motion in your shoulder joint, reducing stiffness and pain.

  1. Stand or sit with your back straight and your arms at your sides.
  2. Bend your elbow and raise your forearm so that it’s parallel to the floor, with your hand pointing outward.
  3. Rotate your shoulder so that your forearm moves across your body, toward your opposite shoulder.
  4. Hold for 10-15 seconds, then release.
  5. Repeat on the other arm.
  6. To stretch the internal rotator muscles, rotate your forearm in the opposite direction, toward your body.
  7. Hold for 10-15 seconds, then release.
  8. Repeat on the other arm.

These exercises are just a few examples of the many rehabilitation exercises that can help alleviate shoulder bursitis symptoms and improve strength and flexibility.

treating shoulder bursitis with exercise such as wall pushup
Photo Credit: Freepik

Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions, and never push yourself beyond your limits. With regular exercise and proper care, you will be well on your way to recovering from shoulder bursitis.

Preventing Shoulder Bursitis

Shoulder bursitis can be a painful and debilitating condition, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing it. Here are some preventive measures to consider:

Maintain proper posture

Sitting or standing incorrectly can strain your shoulder muscles and lead to bursitis. To maintain good posture:

  • Sit up straight with your shoulders back and down.
  • Don’t slouch or hunch forward.
  • Adjust your chair and computer screen to be at the correct height.

Avoid repetitive motions

Performing the same motion over and over can cause strain on your shoulder and lead to bursitis. Here are some tips to minimise repetitive motions:

  • Take frequent breaks if you work on a computer or perform other repetitive tasks.
  • Vary your activities, alternating between sitting and standing, or alternating between tasks that require different motions.

Warm up before physical activities

Engaging in physical activities without warming up can cause strain on your shoulder muscles and increase your risk of bursitis. Here are steps you can take to warm up:

  • Stretch your shoulder muscles before any physical activity.
  • Start with lighter exercises before gradually increasing the intensity.

Strengthen the shoulder muscles

Keeping your shoulder muscles strong can help prevent bursitis. Here are some exercises to consider:

  • Shoulder blade squeeze: Sit or stand with your shoulders relaxed. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for 5-10 seconds before releasing. Repeat 10 times.
  • Rotator cuff strengthening: Hold a lightweight or resistance band with your arm bent at a 90-degree angle. Rotate your arm outwards and hold for 5-10 seconds before slowly returning to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.

These preventive measures can reduce your risk of developing shoulder bursitis and keep your shoulder muscles healthy and strong.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Shoulder Bursitis

Here are some commonly asked questions about shoulder bursitis to help you better understand this condition.

How long does it take to recover from shoulder bursitis?

Recovery time depends on the severity of the bursitis and the treatment approach. Mild cases usually resolve within a few weeks with rest, ice, and medication. However, some cases may take several months to heal, especially if surgery is required. Following your doctor’s recommendations and attending follow-up appointments is important to ensure proper healing.

Can lifestyle changes help prevent shoulder bursitis?

Yes, making certain lifestyle changes can help prevent shoulder bursitis. Maintaining good posture, avoiding repetitive motions, and properly warming up before physical activity can reduce the risk of developing bursitis. Strengthening the shoulder muscles through targeted exercises also helps prevent injury and reduce the risk of bursitis.

Is shoulder bursitis a recurring condition?

In some cases, shoulder bursitis can recur. However, with proper treatment and preventive measures, the risk of recurrence can be reduced. Following a rehabilitation program that includes exercises to strengthen the shoulder muscles and using good body mechanics during physical activity can help prevent future episodes of bursitis.

Can I continue to exercise with shoulder bursitis?

Resting the affected shoulder and avoiding activities aggravating the bursitis is generally recommended. However, low-impact exercises that do not strain the shoulder joint, such as swimming or cycling, may be beneficial for maintaining overall fitness. You should always consult with your doctor before engaging in any physical activity while recovering from shoulder bursitis.