Most people who suffer from continuous shoulder pain are often diagnosed with shoulder bursitis. Inside the shoulder joint there is a tiny fluid-filled sac known as the bursa. The work of the bursa is to reduce friction between bones and tendons during movement. When the shoulder bursa becomes injured or inflamed, one gets bursitis. The causes of bursitis in the shoulder are repetitive overhead activities, carrying heavy loads or just as simple as loading groceries into your car. However sometimes the condition occurs alongside diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout.

shoulder bursitis

Shoulder Bursitis Symptoms

Common symptoms include; intensive pain in the joint, swelling, redness of the skin around the shoulder, inability to move the arm easily without pain. Experiencing pain while sleeping at night and pain in the upper arm are also common. Although these symptoms can reflect presence of  bursitis, it is important that a test be done.  The doctor will perform a series of physical examination on you with your help and might recommend that you undergo an MRI or an X-ray. The physical test involves the doctor feeling the area around both your shoulders to identify any symmetrical differences between the two, abnormalities, bone deformity, redness and any warmth around the shoulder. He will also test your motion by asking you to perform some movements. A sharp pain felt when trying to reach the affected arm behind your back or above your head may indicate presence of the condition.


It is uncommon to find infection of the bursae; most patients suffer from this due to an injury. There are different options for treatment depending on the problem. Surgery is recommended if the problem is with bone formation. If the bursa is infected, the  treatment option will be drainage of the bursa sac with a needle by the doctor and then he will prescribe antibiotics after further examination of the fluid in the laboratory. Though normally the removal of the bursae through  surgery is not required, it may be recommended if the conservative  treatment fails to give improvement. Physical therapy exercises are also used to help in recovery.

As a part of recovery, resting the shoulder and use of ice packs are used in combination with medication and exercises. Medication reduces pain and inflammation, exercising reduce stiffness and builds strength, while the ice packs numbs pain, reduces inflation and speeds up the healing process. Anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen and aspirin relieve pain and reduce inflammation but are only recommended for short-term use. Cortisone injection to the bursa is a quick way of relieving symptoms. However, due to the presence of steroids in this medication, most doctors only recommend three injections to avoid weakening the tissues. Physical therapy exercises help to prevent stiffness and strengthen the rotator cuff, which in turn helps to prevent soft tissues injury.