Shoulder Bursitis Symptoms


Bursitis is an inflammation of your joints from overuse or a repetitive stress movement. Your joints contain bursae which are fluid-filled sacs that cushion and reduce friction between tendons, muscles and bones near joints in your body. When these sacs become inflamed, pain and pressure occur in the affected joints. The shoulder is one of the most common areas for bursitis.


Shoulder bursitis normally occurs after a rotator cuff injury. The rotator cuff is the muscles and tendons connecting the shoulder blade and the upper arm bone. Causes of a rotator cuff injury include falling on the arm or shoulder, lifting an extremely heavy object or repetitive arm movements.


Shoulder bursitis symptoms may include pain, swelling and stiffness in and around the shoulder area. Pain increases with pressure or movement, and the area feels tender and warm. At times, the skin in the affected area may appear red. Your ability to move the shoulder joint may be limited and raising your arm over your head may be quite painful. Other symptoms include an inability to sleep because of a dull aching pain, difficulty lifting objects and weakness in your shoulder and arm.


Your doctor will perform a physical examination by feeling the affected area and pinpointing the origin of pain. X-rays do not always show signs of bursitis but can rule out other reasons for the pain. An MRI scan can detect signs of bursitis.


Shoulder bursitis is typically treated with rest, ice compresses to reduce swelling and anti-inflammatory medications, such as Advil or Motrin, to reduce pain and decrease inflammation. Mild bursitis may disappear in a few weeks with this kind of treatment. For chronic shoulder bursitis, your doctor may recommend physical therapy exercises to strengthen shoulder muscles. Your doctor may also inject a corticosteroid into your shoulder, which should bring immediate relief. Generally, only one injection is required.

It's uncommon, but shoulder bursitis can be caused by an infection. Antibiotics are used to treat the infection.


Stretching your shoulder muscles before any physical activity helps prevent or minimize shoulder bursitis flare-ups. Alternating tasks that call for repetitive shoulder and arm movement and strengthening the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint through exercise helps as well.

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