Shoulder Bursitis occurs when the fluid-filled bursae that cushion your shoulder endure injury or inflammation.
Your shoulders are two of the most versatile and mobile joints in your entire body. Created by an interlocking ball-and-socket joint, your shoulders allow for an extensive range of motion. Likewise, your shoulders enable you to fully utilize your arms and hands, and to undertake the many activities of daily life. Imagine trying to brush your teeth or pull a shirt over your head without being able to lift your arms from the side of your body. Brushing your hair, climbing a ladder, lifting your child or grandchild up from the floor… All of these actions require the freedom of movement afforded by your shoulder joint.
As a result, the importance of the shoulder doesn’t encounter much opposition. Its value is apparent in our constant, everyday use of this joint to engage with our world. Not surprisingly, however, constant use of the shoulder also creates many opportunities to sustain a strain or injury. In fact, one common location for pain to erupt is within the shoulders’ bursae.
What is Shoulder Bursitis?
Significantly, more than 150 bursae are found in the adult body. These small discs are located next to major skeletal joints, including the knees, hips, elbows—and shoulders. Similar in function to spinal discs, bursae are protective cushions that create a buffer between our bones and surrounding tissues. If these fluid-filled sacs suffer irritation, then increased friction, inflammation, and shoulder bursitis can result.
However, when we’re talking about the shoulder, one bursa in particular tends to develop irritation. Your Subacromial Bursa—similar to the middle of a sandwich—sits above the rotator cuff and below the acromion bone. When this bursa sustains damage or inflammation, the acromion bone can rub against the tendon below. This constant friction creates painful—and often incapacitating—symptoms.
What Causes Shoulder Bursitis?
Many different types of activities can lead to painful irritation of the shoulder bursae. The most common of these often involves repetitive use or strain on the shoulder joint. Moreover, sports (such as tennis or baseball) or occupational hazards (such as repetitive lifting or applying weight to the arms as one would when installing flooring) can make this strain more likely. However, despite many possible causes, bursitis most commonly develops as a result of heavy overhead lifting or activity.
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The symptoms of shoulder bursitis do not appear suddenly or emerge at full force. Instead, symptoms of bursitis develop gradually over time. Often, the condition starts with a small twinge of pain, which grows in intensity over the following weeks or months.
If you suspect that you have shoulder bursitis, watch out for the following warning signs:
Unfortunately, the symptoms of bursitis don’t end there. In fact, an inflamed or damaged bursa can lead to a variety of more severe symptoms or conditions. Loss of sleep, anxiety, and depression can all result because of the associated pain or loss of activity. Rotator Cuff Tendinitis can also develop as a result of increased friction and inflammation in your shoulder. And, if left untreated, shoulder bursitis can cause painful tears to develop in the tendons of your shoulder.
If you are suffering from the symptoms listed above, don’t wait any longer to take action. With an appropriate treatment plan and time for healing, most individuals with shoulder bursitis achieve a full recovery. To initiate your recovery process, contact our award-winning team at NJ Spine & Orthopedic. Our board certified surgeons will design a custom treatment plan that addresses your medical needs and busy lifestyle.
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Treatments for shoulder bursitis will depend upon your specific situation and the severity of your pain and inflammation. For minor cases of bursitis, rest and the use of anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen may be enough to provide lasting relief. Additionally, your doctor may prescribe the alternating application of ice and heat to the affected shoulder. Oral antibiotics may be necessary for bursae that are infected. However, this is a rare complication in the shoulder. For more severe pain, your doctor may administer corticosteroid injections.
Although many of these “traditional” pain relief methods are effective, advances in science and technology have paved the way for more natural and longer-lasting alternatives. In fact, exciting new options for the treatment of shoulder bursitis can eliminate the need for surgery or medication-based treatments. Two of these state-of-the-art techniques include Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) and stem cell injections.
PRP is derived from your own blood and contains a natural healing factor. When injected directly into the shoulder, PRP can target the affected bursae and promote healing. Likewise, the injection of stem cells is another restorative material that can stimulate cellular repair. By contrast, corticosteroid injections temporarily relieve pain; however, these injections do not encourage the healing process. So, pain is more likely to reoccur.
In addition, your doctor will likely prescribe physical therapy as a part of your treatment for shoulder bursitis. This is especially true in moderate to severe cases of the condition. A physical therapist can design personalized stretches and strength-building exercises to enhance the musculoskeletal fitness of your shoulder.
Regardless of the path that you choose to address your shoulder bursitis, however, you are in good hands at NJ Spine & Ortho. Our board certified surgeons are internationally recognized for their superior outcomes and compassionate patient care. Ready to take the next step? Contact one of our patient advocates today and learn how you can get your life back!
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