Shoulder Bursitis

Shoulder bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa, a small fluid-filled sac in the shoulder joint. It can cause pain, swelling, and limited range of motion in the shoulder.

Shoulder Bursitis
Shoulder Bursitis
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Your Guide to Understanding Shoulder Bursitis

What is Shoulder Bursitis?

Shoulder bursitis is a condition characterized by the inflammation of the bursa in the shoulder joint. The bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between bones, tendons, and muscles, reducing friction and allowing smooth movement. When the bursa becomes inflamed, it can lead to pain, swelling, and limited mobility in the shoulder.

There are several potential causes of shoulder bursitis. Repetitive motions or overuse of the shoulder joint, such as those involved in sports or certain occupations, can lead to irritation and inflammation of the bursa. Traumatic injuries, such as a fall or direct blow to the shoulder, can also result in bursitis. Additionally, underlying conditions like arthritis, tendonitis, or infection can contribute to the development of shoulder bursitis.

How can Physiotherapy help treat Shoulder Bursitis?

Physiotherapy services play a crucial role in alleviating shoulder bursitis. Physiotherapists employ various techniques to reduce pain, swelling, and stiffness associated with this condition. These may include soft tissue massage, joint mobilizations, and exercises tailored to improve range of motion and strengthen the shoulder muscles.

Physiotherapy also focuses on addressing underlying issues that contribute to bursitis, such as poor posture or muscle imbalances. By providing targeted treatment and guidance, physiotherapy helps alleviate shoulder bursitis and promotes overall shoulder health.

What causes Shoulder Bursitis?

Shoulder bursitis is typically caused by several factors, including repetitive motions or overuse of the shoulder joint. Engaging in activities that involve repeated overhead movements, such as throwing, swimming, or painting, can put strain on the shoulder and lead to irritation of the bursa. Certain occupations that require repetitive shoulder movements, such as construction work or assembly line jobs, can also contribute to the development of shoulder bursitis.

In addition to repetitive motions, traumatic injuries can cause shoulder bursitis. A fall onto the shoulder or a direct blow to the shoulder can result in inflammation of the bursa. These sudden injuries can damage the tissues surrounding the shoulder joint and trigger an inflammatory response in the bursa.

What treatments might help Shoulder Bursitis?

There are several treatment options that can help improve shoulder bursitis. Here are some straightforward tips:

  • Pain Medication: Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or anti-inflammatories such as aspirin can help reduce pain and discomfort associated with shoulder bursitis.
  • Physical Therapy: Engaging in physical therapy can be highly effective in managing shoulder bursitis. Physical therapists can provide exercises and techniques to reduce pain, swelling, and stiffness while improving range of motion and strengthening the shoulder muscles.
  • Cold and Heat Therapy: Applying ice packs or cold compresses to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and provide temporary pain relief. After a few days, switching to heat therapy, such as warm compresses or a heating pad, can help relax the muscles and promote healing.
  • Rest and Modification of Activities: Giving your shoulder proper rest and avoiding activities that exacerbate the symptoms can aid in the healing process. Limiting repetitive or strenuous movements that strain the shoulder can prevent further irritation.
  • Medications: In some cases, doctors may prescribe corticosteroid medications, such as injections or oral tablets, to help reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms.
  • Minimally Invasive Procedures: If conservative treatments do not provide sufficient relief, minimally invasive procedures, such as bursa injections or arthroscopic surgery, may be considered.

Signs of Shoulder Bursitis:

Shoulder bursitis can cause various signs and symptoms that may include:

  • Pain: The most common symptom of shoulder bursitis is pain, which is typically felt on the outer part of the shoulder. The pain can range from mild to severe and may worsen with movement or pressure on the affected area.
  • Swelling: Bursitis can cause swelling around the shoulder joint. This swelling may be visible as a lump or a bulge and can contribute to limited mobility and discomfort.
  • Limited Range of Motion: Shoulder bursitis can lead to a reduced range of motion in the affected shoulder. You may find it challenging to lift your arm overhead, reach across your body, or perform certain movements without pain or stiffness.
  • Tenderness: The area over the inflamed bursa may feel tender to the touch. Applying pressure or palpating the affected area can elicit discomfort or pain.
  • Warmth and Redness: In some cases, shoulder bursitis can cause localized warmth and redness around the shoulder joint. This can be a sign of inflammation and increased blood flow to the affected area.

Symptoms of Shoulder Bursitis:

The symptoms of shoulder bursitis can vary from person to person, but commonly include:

  • Pain: Shoulder bursitis often causes pain in the affected shoulder. The pain may be a dull ache or a sharp, stabbing sensation. It is typically felt on the outer part of the shoulder and may worsen with certain movements or when pressure is applied.
  • Swelling: Bursitis can lead to swelling around the shoulder joint. This swelling may cause the shoulder to appear larger or feel puffy. It may also contribute to a feeling of tightness or stiffness.
  • Limited Range of Motion: People with shoulder bursitis may experience difficulty moving their shoulder fully. The condition can restrict the range of motion, making it challenging to lift the arm overhead, reach behind the back, or perform certain activities.
  • Tenderness: The area over the inflamed bursa may feel tender to the touch. It can be sensitive, and pressure or palpation may elicit discomfort or pain.
  • Weakness: Some individuals with shoulder bursitis may notice weakness in the affected shoulder. This weakness can make it harder to perform daily tasks that require arm strength, such as lifting objects or pushing/pulling.
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When is the right time to see a Physiotherapist for Shoulder Bursitis?

It is recommended to see a physiotherapist if you are experiencing symptoms of shoulder bursitis that are causing significant pain, limited range of motion, or affecting your daily activities. If home remedies, such as rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain relievers, do not provide relief within a few days, it may be a good time to seek professional help.

Additionally, if you have recently experienced a shoulder injury or trauma, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional to assess the extent of the injury and determine the appropriate course of treatment. They can evaluate your condition, provide a proper diagnosis, and develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

Meet our Lead Registered Physiotherapist

Brittany Pereira

Brittany Pereira

Registered Physiotherapist

Registered Physiotherapist with a degree from the University of Toronto

Brittany enjoys working with patients across age groups and backgrounds to help them move better, get stronger, understand their bodies and ultimately, feel more confident. She combines her knowledge and clinical experience to best serve her patients.

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