While most people are familiar with common causes of pain such as arthritis and tendonitis, bursitis is an equally common but less well-known cause. Bursitis is defined as an inflammation of the bursae, small fluid-filled sacs that act as cushioning for bones, tendons and ligaments. Bursae (the plural of bursa) are present wherever these structures move against each other, most notably near joints. The bursae help reduce friction and help the joints move smoothly through their full range of motion. However, when a bursa becomes irritated, this causes inflammation, swelling and pain. This is what we call bursitis.
It’s estimated that 65% of the population will experience shoulder pain at some point in their lives, and bursitis is a common source of such pain. In this blog, NYC orthopedic shoulder specialist, Dr. Francis X. Mendoza, will provide an overview of shoulder bursitis causes, symptoms and treatment options.
An Overview of Shoulder Bursitis Causes
Although it can also be caused by a direct injury or trauma, like so many other types of shoulder injuries, shoulder bursitis is most often the result of repetitive motion. Shoulder bursitis happens when the subacromial bursa, which is located between the head of the humerus (the upper arm bone) and the acromion (a finger-like projection at the outer top edge of the shoulder blade) becomes irritated.
The bursa in this area serves to protect the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles from too much friction with the acromion. Repetitive shoulder motions subject the bursa to an undue amount of friction, resulting in inflammation and swelling. Bone spurs can also cause irritation resulting in bursitis.
Falling on the shoulder, or suffering a direct impact to it, are also possible shoulder bursitis causes. Less commonly, bursitis can be caused by an infection.
Symptoms of Shoulder Bursitis
The most common symptom of shoulder bursitis is pain or tenderness at the outer side of the shoulder.
Other symptoms of shoulder bursitis include:
- Shoulder pain that may increase gradually or be sudden and severe
- Pain when reaching your arms above your head
- Pain that gets worse with repeated motions involving the shoulder, especially overhead motions like throwing a ball or swimming
- Shoulder tenderness that is usually felt at the outside of your shoulder initially and gets worse over time; eventually the pain may radiate down your arm, and it may become uncomfortable to sleep on the affected shoulder
- Muscle weakness
- Shoulder redness and warmth
Treatment for Shoulder Bursitis
Conservative measures are usually the first line of treatment for shoulder bursitis. Conservative, non-surgical treatments may include:
- Resting the affected shoulder – To reduce inflammation and irritation, the first step is to stop any activities that are causing discomfort.
- Applying ice – Icing can help reduce swelling, pain and inflammation.
- Anti-inflammatory medication – Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen and naproxen may be recommended.
- Physical therapy – Undergoing a physical therapy program with strengthening exercises for the muscles in the shoulder joint can help reduce the likelihood of a recurrence of the condition.
- Corticosteroid injections – Getting local injections of corticosteroids in the affected shoulder may relieve symptoms and reduce inflammation.
Conservative measures are often the only treatment necessary. In some severe cases of shoulder bursitis, the bursa may need to be surgically drained, but very rarely is surgical removal of the affected bursa necessary.
Treat Shoulder Bursitis Causes at the Source
To learn more about shoulder bursitis causes, or to have your symptoms evaluated, schedule your consultation with Dr. Francis Mendoza today.