What is Bursitis Shoulder? Its Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, and Exercises
What is Bursitis of the shoulder?
To get a thorough understanding of bursitis in the shoulder, it is important to know what a bursa is. A bursa is a small fluid-filled sac that reduces friction between a hard bone and the surrounding softer tissue (ligaments and tendons).
The bursa in your shoulder exists between the acromion (bone) and the surrounding rotator cuff tendons. Its main function is to ensure your tendons don’t wear out as they rub against the acromion.
Bursitis occurs when the bursa becomes inflamed. This can happen due to a variety of reasons and can cause immense discomfort making it difficult for the patient to move their shoulder and by extension, their arm.
What causes Bursitis in the shoulder?
There are various causes of bursitis in the shoulder because of which it is classified into three types:
- Chronic Bursitis: This type of bursitis will usually develop if the bursa is irritated quite frequently. A pre-existing medical condition may also be part of the reason why certain people develop this type of bursitis.
- Infected Bursitis: This occurs when the irritated bursa becomes infected with bacteria. Fortunately, this type of bursitis is uncommon in the shoulder.
- Traumatic Bursitis: This type of bursitis may occur if there is excessive bending of the joint. Sports and hard physical training can often be the direct cause of why a person may develop traumatic bursitis.
Other causes may include injuries or something more mundane like lifting a heavy load.
Symptoms of Bursitis Shoulder
Shoulder bursitis is a condition associated with the swelling of the bursa ( sac-like structure). In some cases, the symptoms may take some weeks to a month to be observable. If a person finds it difficult to perform basic tasks like lifting an object off a high shelf, this may be a sign of shoulder bursitis.
When a person develops bursitis in their shoulder, a wide range of symptoms can be observed. These often include:
- Pain: This will mostly be concentrated in the shoulder area
- Swelling: Patients will often notice persistent swelling
- Warmth: This might indicate infectious bursitis
- Fever: Again a sign of infectious bursitis
- Limited ability to move or lift the shoulder
It can be quite difficult to tell exactly what type of bursitis a person is suffering from as the symptoms often overlap. This is why it is important to seek out proper medical attention and care. Furthermore, it is highly recommended that you consult a physiotherapist so that a proper diagnosis can be made.
A physiotherapist will often make the diagnosis using results obtained from various tests. The most common one is an ultrasound scan. However, MRI scans and even X rays may be used to determine the exact nature of bursitis.
If the doctor suspects that the bursa may be infected by bacteria, he/she might suggest an aspiration (removal of Bursal fluid) to determine the bacterial culprit. Furthermore, blood tests may also be needed to check if there might be other medical conditions responsible.
Other conditions like tendonitis and rotator cuff injuries may also be present in addition to shoulder bursitis.
How to treat Shoulder Bursitis?
Shoulder Bursitis can be quite an uncomfortable condition. Luckily a range of treatments and procedures are available. The following list highlights some of the key treatments:
1. The R.I.C.E Method
The R.I.C.E method is often recommended by doctors for soft tissue injuries. For example, if a person pulls a ligament or strains a muscle, the first basic self-care step is to employ the R.I.C.E method. It stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Resting is key to the healing process, and it helps minimize the chance of re-injury. The person must reduce their arm and shoulder movements in case of shoulder bursitis.
Icing is the second step. It is recommended that a person apply an ice pack to the affected area. This method is quite common when it comes to treating swellings and bruises. It is very effective because it numbs the swollen area and reduces discomfort.
The third step is compression. This is a technique where pressure is applied to the swollen area using a compression bandage. This technique is crucial as it restricts the flow of blood and keeps the swollen area in check.
The last step is elevation. This simply means keeping the affected area above the level of the heart. This helps with pain alleviation. However, raising the arm might be painful, which is a sure sign of shoulder bursitis.
In this case, using a shoulder brace is vital so that the person can keep the affected area elevated passively to avoid further damage to the soft tissue in their shoulder.
This method is often the first that is recommended if you notice persistent swelling and are afraid that it might be bursitis of the shoulder.
2. Anti-inflammatory Drugs
One of the most visible signs of bursitis is swelling and inflammation. Fortunately, this can be treated using simple over the counter anti-inflammatory medication as well as simple pain-relieving pills like Aspirin or Panadol.
However, it is always advisable to seek professional medical attention. Especially if the symptoms are recurring.
Anti-inflammatory medicine is also given during the recovery phase to help the patient bear the pain and discomfort.
3. Wearing a shoulder brace
Before we discuss the merits of the shoulder bracelets first understand what a shoulder brace is and how it helps with shoulder bursitis.
Shoulder braces are of various types and sizes and can be strapped around the affected area to provide support. They are crucial in preventing a person from re-injuring themselves during the different phases of recovery.
The way they work is that they provide additional support and minimize the mobility of the affected area. This is important, especially if the shoulder is experiencing swelling and inflammation.
Shoulder braces are useful for a variety of conditions from rotator cuff tears to shoulder bursitis. The following are the three important features of a shoulder brace that can help you.
- Elevated to avoid obstruction
- High-quality premium design
- Comfortable for both men and women
4. Applying Ice on the shoulder
As stated above the ice is a simple way to assuage shoulder pain and swelling. However, according to several well-reputed websites that offer medical advice, it is very important to assure the ice does not come in direct contact with the skin. ‘
The ice acts as a physical pain reliever because it numbs the area and reduces pain.
Steroid shots or cortisone injections may be given to a person if their symptoms don’t improve through physical therapy. They are effective for recurring and persistent swelling.
However, one should keep in mind that repeated cortisone injections may lead to unwanted side effects and it is best to opt for these injections only if the shoulder bursa does not show improvement after several weeks of treatment.
Surgery is quite uncommon when it comes to bursitis in the shoulder. Most people will show significant improvement through the usual physical exercises recommended by physicians.
According to the prestigious John Hopkins medical website, the surgical procedure will entail an incision and drainage, especially if the bursa is infected. In some cases, the bursa is removed entirely if bursal swelling does not improve.
7. Trying out various Exercises
As previously mentioned, shoulder bursitis can be treated using different physical exercises. These should be done through the guidance and consultation of your physiotherapist. Listed below are some of the exercises that may be helpful:
· Shoulder Rotating Exercises
This exercise is a great way to increase strength in your shoulders and make it easier for you to lift weights above your head. It is also great for developing good posture. This is important as bad posture can often lead to bursitis in the shoulder.
It is important to note that it is best to do these exercises under the guidance of your physiotherapist. The last thing you want is to increase your injury by exercising too hard.
This type of exercise is also good for rotation cuff injuries, which often accompany bursitis in the shoulder.
· Posterior Stretch
This is a very popular exercise for treating shoulder bursitis, but the patient must make sure to warm up properly beforehand.
According to health journals, exercise has three basic steps:
- Bring your arm across your chest and place your hand on the back of the shoulder.
- Use your free hand to press on the back of your elbow to increase the stretch
- Hold this position for a maximum of 30 seconds.
· Shoulder blade squeeze
This is an exercise that is also recommended by Healthline. According to them, these are the following steps:
- With your hands at your sides, pull your shoulder back
- Make sure to keep your shoulders down to deepen the stretch
- Hold the position for more than five seconds and repeat up to ten times.
How long does shoulder Bursitis last?
The duration of shoulder bursitis depends on several factors and can vary from case to case. The healing process can range from a few days to weeks and more. This often depends on what caused bursitis to develop in the first place and how mobile the arm is during the recovery process.
Unfortunately, if a person returns to work or athletic pursuits too soon without going through all the phases of the recovery process, they can further damage the shoulder, and this can further increase the duration of bursitis in the shoulder.
The patient is advised to follow the correct procedure and observe all the preventive measures that are needed. By doing so, they have an extremely fair chance of full recovery.
How to prevent Shoulder Bursitis?
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure, and there are a few ways a person can use to prevent shoulder bursitis from developing or worsening if the condition is pre-existing.
First of all, it is vital to maintain a healthy body posture. A bad posture as I have said before can be the direct cause of bursitis in the shoulder. It is also quite important to avoid extended periods of inactivity and immobility.
Secondly, it is extremely crucial to make sure you have warmed up completely before you begin any new exercise. Proper exercise is always preceded by a good warm-up routine.
Next, it is good practice to incorporate new exercises in your daily regimen slowly and steadily. It can be extremely harmful to exercise a lot harder than you are used to, and this is also often linked to shoulder bursitis.
Furthermore, it is advisable to avoid repetitive work. However, if you are in a profession that involves repetitive labor, it is highly recommended that you take frequent breaks in which you either rest or do some other light work.
Additionally, you can purchase shoulder braces and other equipment to support your shoulder if it shows early signs of bursitis in the shoulder. Last but not least, you need to make sure you avoid any exercises or activities that cause significant pain.
To conclude, shoulder bursitis is a condition that is associated with excessive swelling, redness, and inflammation. However, it can be treated fairly easily by various treatments and some preventive measures. Certain exercises are also highly recommended but under the administration of a qualified physiotherapist.