Shoulder Bursitis

What is shoulder bursitis?

Shoulder bursitis is inflammation of the bursa in your shoulder. The bursa is a fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between a bone and a tendon. A tendon is a cord of strong tissue that connects muscles to bones.

Shoulder Anatomy

What causes shoulder bursitis?

  • An injury, such as a fall

  • Bacterial infection

  • Overuse of the shoulder, such as when you paint or swim

  • Bony growths that rub against and irritate the bursa and tendons

What are the signs and symptoms of shoulder bursitis?

  • Pain when you move your shoulder or raise your arm over your head

  • Decreased movement of your arm and shoulder

  • Redness or swelling

  • Crunching or popping when you move your shoulder

  • Shoulder and arm weakness

How is shoulder bursitis diagnosed?

Your caregiver will examine your shoulder and ask about your injury or activities. You may need any of the following:

  • Blood tests: You may need blood drawn to check for infection. Caregivers may also check for diseases that may be causing your bursitis, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

  • X-rays: These pictures will show bone position problems, arthritis, or a fracture.

  • MRI: This scan uses powerful magnets and a computer to take pictures of your shoulder. An MRI may show tissue damage or arthritis. You may be given dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the caregiver if you have any metal in or on your body.

  • Fluid culture: Caregivers use a needle to drain fluid from your bursa. The fluid will be sent to a lab and tested for infection. Removal of bursa fluid may also help relieve your symptoms.

How is shoulder bursitis treated?

  • Medicine:

    • NSAIDs: These medicines decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs are available without a doctor's order. Ask your caregiver which medicine is right for you. Ask how much to take and when to take it. Take as directed. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding and kidney problems if not taken correctly.

    • Antibiotics: These help fight an infection caused by bacteria. You may need antibiotics if your bursitis is caused by infection.

    • Steroid injection: This shot will help decrease pain and swelling.

  • Bursectomy: This is surgery to remove your bursa. It is only done when other treatments do not work.

What are the risks of shoulder bursitis?

The infection may spread to nearby joints. You may have long-term bursitis. This may include pain and severe limitation of movement.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Rest: Rest your shoulder as much as possible to decrease pain and swelling. Slowly start to do more each day. Return to your daily activities as directed.

  • Ice: Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on your shoulder for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times each day, as directed.

  • Heat: Heat helps decrease pain and stiffness. Apply heat on the area for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times each day, as directed.

  • Sleep position: Try to avoid lying on your injured shoulder. You may be more comfortable if you sleep on your stomach or back.

  • Physical therapy: You may need to see a physical therapist to teach you special exercises. These exercises help improve movement and decrease pain. Physical therapy can also help improve strength and decrease your risk for loss of function.

How can I prevent shoulder bursitis?

Always stretch and do warmup and cool-down exercises before and after you exercise. This will help loosen your muscles and decrease stress on your shoulder. Rest between workouts.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • Your redness, pain, and swelling increase.

  • Your symptoms do not improve with treatment.

  • You have a fever.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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