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Understanding Shoulder Bursitis

Alternate Names: Shoulder bursitis is sometimes referred to as subacromial bursitis or impingement syndrome. These terms are used interchangeably to describe the same condition.


Shoulder bursitis, also referred to as subacromial bursitis, is a common condition that affects the shoulder joint. It occurs when the bursa, a small fluid-filled sac that cushions the joint, becomes inflamed. This inflammation can cause pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion in the shoulder. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the various aspects of shoulder bursitis, including its symptoms, causes, and multiple treatment options.


The most common symptom of shoulder bursitis is pain, which is often felt on the outer side of the shoulder and may radiate down the arm. The pain can be sharp or dull and may worsen with certain movements or activities. Other symptoms include swelling, tenderness, and a limited range of motion in the affected shoulder. In some cases, individuals may also experience weakness or a clicking sensation in the joint.


Shoulder bursitis can be caused by various factors, including repetitive overhead activities, such as throwing or lifting heavy objects. It can also occur as a result of trauma or injury to the shoulder joint. Additionally, certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout, may increase the risk of developing shoulder bursitis.

Multiple Treatment Options:

The treatment of shoulder bursitis typically involves a combination of conservative measures and, in some cases, medical interventions. Conservative treatments may include rest, ice or heat therapy, physical therapy exercises to strengthen the shoulder muscles, and the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce pain and inflammation. Although NSAIDs do reduce inflammation to temporarily relieve pain, they are responsible for 30% of hospital admissions for adverse drug side effects, mainly due to bleeding, heart attack, stroke, and kidney damage. In addition, from the first day of use, all NSAIDs increase the risk of gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding, myocardial infarction, and stroke.

Corticosteroid injections may be recommended to reduce inflammation and relieve pain in certain conditions. Side effects of cortisone, which is commonly injected for joint pain, includes thinning of the skin, easy bruising, weight gain, puffiness of the face, elevation of blood pressure, cataract formation, thinning of the bones, and a rare but serious form of damage to large joints (avascular necrosis). Due to risks, patients may only get this treatment once every several months. In rare instances where conservative treatments fail to alleviate symptoms, surgical intervention may be considered.


Shoulder bursitis can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life, causing pain and limiting shoulder function. However, with proper understanding and appropriate treatment, individuals can find relief and regain their shoulder’s full range of motion. It is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for a precise diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

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