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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, swim, or play tennis
  • 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
  • Trouble moving 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 healthcare provider will examine your shoulder and ask about your injury or activities. You may need any of the following:

  • Blood tests may be done to check for infection. Healthcare providers may also check for other causes of your bursitis, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • An x-ray, ultrasound, or MRI may show inflammation of your bursa, tissue damage, or arthritis. You may be given contrast liquid to help the tissues in your shoulder show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • A fluid culture may be done. Healthcare providers 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?

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Antibiotics help treat or prevent a bacterial infection.
  • A steroid injection will help decrease pain and swelling.
  • A bursectomy is surgery to remove your bursa. It may done if other treatments do not work.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • 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.
  • Apply ice on your shoulder for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you apply it. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Apply heat on your shoulder for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed. Heat helps decrease pain and muscle spasms.
  • Find a comfortable sleep position. Sleep on the side that is not injured. You may be more comfortable if you sleep on your stomach or back.
  • Go to physical therapy as directed. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.

How can I prevent shoulder bursitis?

Always warm up and stretch before you exercise. This will help loosen your muscles and decrease stress on your shoulder. Cool down after you exercise.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have increased redness, pain, and swelling.
  • 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 healthcare providers 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.

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