What is shoulder bursitis?

A shoulder bursitis occurs when the bursa in the shoulder becomes inflamed and swells with fluid Typically, the inflammation and swelling causes shoulder pain.

Causes of shoulder bursitis

Shoulder bursa can become inflamed from an injury, strain on the shoulder or a rheumatic condition. Although rare in the shoulder, an infection can also cause shoulder bursitis.

Risk factors for shoulder bursitis

Risk factors for shoulder bursitis include:

  • Sports involving throwing a ball
  • Activities that require lifting objects overhead

Symptoms of shoulder bursitis

The most common symptoms of bursitis are pain when moving the affected area, swelling and tenderness. You could also feel a pinching or stinging pain when you move your elbow away from your body. This is a sign of impingement in the shoulder.

Shoulder bursitis and shoulder tendonitis often occur together. The tendons adjacent to the bursa can become inflamed and painful.

Diagnosis of shoulder bursitis

Shoulder bursitis can be diagnosed in a physical exam with your doctor.

Diagnostic testing may be required for diagnosis, tests could include:

  • X-rays can detect calcifications in the bursa with chronic bursitis
  • MRI scanning (magnetic resonance imaging scanning) can help confirm the bursitis diagnosis

Treatment of shoulder bursitis

Shoulder bursitis is initially treated with rest, ice, anti-inflammatory and pain medications. If these nonsurgical treatments don’t work, your doctor may recommend the following:

  • Aspiration — an aspiration of the bursa fluid is needed in some cases. In an aspiration, fluid is removed with a needle and syringe.
  • Steroid Injection — if your case of shoulder bursitis is not infected, you can be treated with a cortisone shot into the swollen bursa.
  • Physical therapy — recommended to strengthen shoulder after treatment.
  • Platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy
  • Ultrasound-guided nerve hydrodissection
  • Ultrasound-guided percutaneoous needle tenotomy (PNT)

Recovery from shoulder bursitis

Most patients can recover from mild to moderate shoulder bursitis within two to three weeks. Your doctor and physical therapists will recommend six to eight weeks of rehabilitation to strengthen the shoulder before you will be cleared to resume day-to-day activities.

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