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In order for your arm to move smoothly, it has many fluid-filled cushion pads between the bones and other tissues surrounding the joint. These cushion pads are mainly filled with something called synovial fluid and are medically referred to as “bursae”. Shoulder bursitis is a condition that results when the shoulder joint is inflamed due to a problem with the shoulder bursa. The shoulder bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac located between the shoulder blade and upper arm bone that helps to lubricate and cushion the shoulder joint. When this sac becomes inflamed, it can cause pain and difficulty moving the shoulder. This is the most common type of bursitis.
Shoulder bursitis can be caused by a variety of conditions that affect the shoulder joint. Common causes include repetitive shoulder motions, shoulder injury or trauma, shoulder overuse, shoulder arthritis, shoulder infection, shoulder impingement syndrome, calcium deposits in the shoulder joint, and bone spurs. Repetitive shoulder motions such as throwing a ball or lifting a heavy object can lead to inflammation of the shoulder bursa due to increasing pressure on the tissues surrounding the bursa. Shoulder injury or trauma such as a fall onto an outstretched arm can also damage this sac and lead to shoulder bursitis.
Overusing the shoulder by repeatedly performing activities or exercises that increase pressure on the shoulder joint increases your risk of developing this condition.
Other possible causes of shoulder bursitis include an infection in the shoulder joint which increases irritation and swelling around the affected area.
Shoulder impingement syndrome is another condition that can cause pain and discomfort due to pressure placed on tendons and muscles around the shoulder joint area affecting blood flow which may result in inflammation of this tissue.
Finally, bone spurs are pieces of extra bone-like tissue that form on bones near joints including shoulders which may irritate nearby ligaments and tendons leading to painful symptoms including those occurring with shoulder bursitis.
Shoulder Bursitis can be extremely painful and uncomfortable. It can often be misdiagnosed as another type of shoulder injury, cervical radiculopathy, and even worse, arthritis. Symptoms of shoulder bursitis may include shoulder pain and stiffness, difficulty moving the shoulder, tenderness or swelling over the shoulder joint, and redness or warmth over the joint. The pain associated with shoulder bursitis may be dull aching pain or sharp pain that occurs when you move your shoulder. You may find that your range of motion is limited and that it is difficult to lift your arm above your head. Additionally, you may experience swelling and tenderness over the shoulder joint, as well as warmth and redness if you have an infection within the joint.
Shoulder bursitis is diagnosed by your doctor after he or she reviews your medical history and performs a physical examination. During the physical examination, your doctor will palpate (feel) the shoulder joint to check for any tenderness or swelling. He or she may also move your shoulder in various directions to test its range of motion. Additionally, diagnostic imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI scans, and ultrasound may be ordered to help identify the cause of shoulder bursitis and to rule out other damage to the shoulder, such as a fracture or rotator cuff tear.
It is important to seek medical attention if you have shoulder pain that does not improve with home treatments such as rest and icing, or if the shoulder pain becomes worse. You should especially see a doctor for shoulder bursitis if you experience any of the following symptoms: severe shoulder pain that limits your daily activities, redness or warmth over the shoulder joint, swelling over the shoulder joint, inability to move your shoulder in certain directions, tingling or numbness in the shoulder area, fever, and/or shoulder stiffness.
You should also tell your doctor about any recent shoulder injuries and shoulder movements that may have caused shoulder bursitis. It is important to let your doctor know how long you’ve been experiencing shoulder pain as well as what makes it feel better or worse. Your doctor may order further imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI scans to help diagnose the condition. Additionally, he or she may ask questions about your lifestyle and physical activity to determine possible causes of shoulder bursitis and recommend appropriate treatments.
Treatment will likely consist of medication such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce inflammation and pain, physical therapy exercises designed specifically for shoulder injury rehabilitation, corticosteroid injections for severe cases of shoulder bursitis, cryotherapy using cold compresses on the affected area to reduce inflammation, ultrasound therapy which utilizes sound waves to provide direct heat deep within muscle tissue for more effective healing of soft tissues around the joint area, rest from activities involving repetitive motion of the affected joint area until symptoms improve, stretching exercises appropriate for any tight muscles around the affected region; use of ice packs on the site several times per day; avoiding activities that increase strain on affected joint areas; and lifestyle changes including maintaining good posture while standing or sitting at work or during leisure activities.
Toggle There are several ways that you can prevent shoulder bursitis. One is to maintain good posture while standing or sitting at work or during leisure activities. You should also avoid activities that increase strain on the shoulder joint, such as heavy lifting. Additionally, you can stretch the muscles around the shoulder joint regularly, and use ice packs on the affected area several times per day to reduce inflammation.
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If you first see your physical therapist, the physical therapist will conduct a thorough evaluation, including your medical health history. A physical therapist may also ask detailed questions about the injury. Your physical therapist will also perform special tests to help determine your likelihood of having shoulder bursitis. Light pressure may be applied to the outside of your shoulder to see if it is painful to the touch along with many other tests to determine if other parts of the shoulder are injured. The physical therapist may also observe your posture and how you lift your arm.
After your evaluation, your physical therapist will work with you to create a custom-tailored treatment plan that will optimize your recovery, including exercises and treatments that you can do at home to help you feel better. Physical therapy will also help you to get back to your normal lifestyle and activities. Healing times can vary, but you can see immediate results after your first session and long-term results can often be achieved in 2 to 8 weeks, when a proper stretching and strengthening program is implemented.
During the first 24 to 48 hours following your diagnosis, your physical therapist can advise you to: