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Shoulder Bursitis

Shoulder Bursitis

Shoulder Bursitis

A bursa is a small fluid-filled sac that works to promote healthy and pain-free movement by reducing the friction between tendon and bone as they pass against one another. This helps to prevent pain, inflammation and injury to the associated tendons.

We have bursa all around our body to achieve this function, and the particular bursa we’re talking about here is called the subacromial bursa, named after its location beneath acromion bone in your shoulder. When this bursa gets injured or irritated, it becomes inflamed. Because of its proximity to the bones and tendons that it serves to help, it then causes movement in the injured site to cause pain until the inflammation settles and the bursa is repaired.

What causes the bursa to become inflamed?

The usual cause is overuse. When you repetitively (and often strenuously) use your shoulder, and your tendons are moving with significant force across the bursae, it may exceed the point that the bursa can normally handle and it sustains damage - and hence becomes inflamed. Think of bowling in cricket or swimming, as well as daily tasks such as hanging the washing, gardening and painting.

Other causes include:
  • Trauma, such as falling on your shoulder
  • Impingement of the shoulder, also often associated with overuse
  • Systemic conditions that cause inflammation such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • Degeneration of the muscles and tissues over time

What does bursitis feel like?

It often starts with pain that may start as mild and worsen over time if left untreated. You may also experience:
  • Stiffness at the shoulder joint
  • Pain is heightened when actively using the shoulder
  • A tightening sensation at the upper arm
  • Weakness on moving the shoulder
  • Referred tenderness down the arm to the elbow
  • An inability to sleep on the side of the affected shoulder due to discomfort
  • More comfortable with the arm in a sling (or positioned across the body as if it were in a sling)

How do you treat shoulder bursitis?

Burisits can often be caused due to poor mechanics. Our first session usually involves a thorough examination of your lifestyle including work positions that could lead to irritation of the bursa. Even though cortisone is frequently prescribed for bursitis, a large population of people have recurrent issues because the mechanics are not addressed. Once these are examined we work towards strengthening, posture retraining and additional conservative treatment as required.

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