Bursitis is a relatively common cause of joint pain, affecting about 9 million people in the United States. The condition occurs when tiny fluid-filled sacs, called bursae, become inflamed.
Normally, bursae help cushion joints, promoting smooth, pain-free movement. But when these tiny sacs become inflamed and irritated, you can wind up experiencing acute pain, chronic aching, or decreased range of motion in the joint.
Bursitis can occur in different joints, including your shoulder. At Next Step Orthopedics, Dominique Nickson, MD, helps patients in and around McKinney, Texas, relieve painful shoulder bursitis and prevent it from recurring. Here’s what causes shoulder bursitis and what Dr. Nickson can do to relieve your symptoms.
Shoulder anatomy 101
Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint that forms where your upper arm bone and shoulder bone meet. Surrounding the joint are tendons, cartilage, and bursae, which help keep the shoulder stable while promoting a wide range of motion.
The bursae also act to protect the tendons inside and around the shoulder joint. When you move your shoulder, the tiny bursae cushion and protect the tendons to prevent tendonitis and other painful problems that can develop when a tendon is compressed, strained, or torn.
Sometimes, though, the bursae become irritated, often due to inflammation, injury, or degenerative changes in the surrounding tissues that cause the joint space to narrow. Over time, the bursa and tendons become compressed or “impinged,” resulting in more inflammation and pain.
Causes of bursitis
Overuse of your shoulder joint is the most common cause of shoulder bursitis. Anyone can develop bursitis in their shoulder, but it tends to be more common among people who use their shoulders a lot, including people who gold or play tennis regularly and people who use their shoulders for lifting or overhead work.
Bursitis is also more common among older people, as well as men and women with:
- Thyroid disease
- A history of tendonitis
- Prior shoulder injury or surgery
- Shoulder joint infections
- Bad posture
Some people have naturally narrow spaces in their shoulder joint, making them more prone to developing bursitis with even a minor amount of irritation around the joint.
Shoulder bursitis treatment options
The first step in treating shoulder pain is to have a thorough physical examination of the joint and imaging tests like X-rays to rule out fractures and other possible causes. Once the diagnosis of shoulder bursitis is confirmed, treatment typically begins with conservative options, like:
- Avoiding activities that use shoulder movements
- Resting the shoulder
- Applying ice to the shoulder joint
- Using anti-inflammatory medications
- Physical therapy to improve range of motion and reduce inflammation
- Exercise to strengthen shoulder muscles for better joint support
If these options don’t provide long-term meaningful relief of painful bursitis symptoms, Dr. Nickson may recommend surgery to restore the joint.
You don’t have to live with shoulder pain
Shoulder pain can make even small movements feel incredibly painful. Sometimes, the inflammation and compression associated with bursitis can cause discomfort even while sitting or resting.
Fortunately, we can treat shoulder bursitis so that you can find relief for your painful symptoms. The key to getting the best results is to have treatment early, ideally at or near the first signs of shoulder pain or stiffness.