Shoulder bursitis refers to the inflammation of a bursa in the shoulder. The causes, symptoms, and treatment of this condition are highlighted in this article.
Bursitis is a condition that results in the inflammation of a bursa. Basically, a bursa has a sac-like structure with a small amount of fluid filled inside its cavity. They are found near various joints of our body. They facilitate smooth joint movements by decreasing friction between the different movable parts of the joints. When a bursa present in the shoulder gets inflamed, it causes shoulder bursitis. It is also referred to as subacromial bursitis.
Causes and Symptoms
One of the key causes is injury to the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff consists of a group of four muscles and tendons that join the bone of upper arm with the shoulder. Thus, it provides adequate support to the joint. It may get injured due to a bad fall on the arms, lifting of heavy objects, or overuse of the shoulder. People who play sports like tennis, swimming, or baseball regularly, often develop this disorder. Repetitive overhead movements of the arms can also cause this kind of problem. Shoulder impingement is often held responsible for the inflammation of bursa. In this condition, the rotator cuff gets compressed in between the bones. This weakens the muscles and makes the joint unstable. Other problems like tendinitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout can also cause such problems.
The most obvious symptom is pain and inflammation. Most people experience acute pain due to bursitis, all of a sudden while doing some activity. When the condition worsens further, they feel the pain even at rest. It often aggravates at night. When the pain and swelling turns severe, it leads to a loss of motion of the joint, and is described as “frozen shoulder”. Sometimes, the affected area becomes warm to the touch and the skin turns red.
Shoulder bursitis is first treated with conservative methods of treatment. The shoulder should be rested to bring down the pain and inflammation. All activities that aggravate the pain should be suspended temporarily. The application of ice packs can also provide relief from the symptoms. Put a few ice cubes in a plastic bag and wrap it up with a cloth. Then, place it over the affected area for 15-20 minutes. This should be repeated 4-5 times in a day. After 48 hours of ice application, you can start applying heat for a few minutes with a heating pad or warm compression. It improves blood flow in the region and eases off stiffness of the muscles. In some cases, the use of a sling is recommended, in order to restrict movement.
Medicines used for the treatment are painkillers and antibiotics. To control mild to moderate pain, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines are given. However, such medicines might not be effective in case of severe pain. In that case, cortisone injections are administered directly into the inflamed bursae for instant pain relief. Antibiotics are prescribed to prevent any kind of bacterial infection in the bursa.
Physical therapy has proved to be helpful in many cases. It includes exercising under the supervision of the physical therapist. These exercises stretch the shoulder muscles and reduce stiffness. It is accompanied by a massage that improves healing. In some cases, when a bursa gets inflamed, the quantity of its fluid content also increases. As a result, reducing inflammation becomes difficult. The fluid is then drained out with the help of a needle. If this technique cannot remove the excess fluid, then surgery is recommended.
With proper treatment, one can recover within a few weeks. If surgery is conducted, then it may take a few months. Once you have recovered from the problem you must take preventive measures to reduce the chances of its recurrence. Do some stretching exercises before a workout or any sports activity. Muscles strengthening exercises can make the muscles strong and flexible, thereby preventing injuries to the soft tissues.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.