Last reviewed on 23 January 2024 by Danniel Jacques (B.Med.Sci UNSW)
What is Shoulder Bursitis?
Bursitis shoulder pain will sometimes be called a rotator cuff injury however this is a general term that also includes shoulder tendonitis pain.
More specifically bursitis in the shoulder is the inflammation of a small fluid filled sac known as a bursa. There are many bursa sacs throughout the body and their role is to act as small lubricated cushions between bones, muscles and other body tissues. This allows low friction and resistance during movement of the joints. There are two main bursa sacs in the shoulder that are responsible for bursitis shoulder pain and they are;
Shoulder bursitis pain should not be left untreated as it may become chronic which could then lead to scar tissue formation and further irritation and shoulder pain.
What Causes Shoulder Bursitis?
Within the complex shoulder joint there is a network of muscles, bones, tendons and other tissues that move together to allow for all the integrate movements of the shoulder. Normally these all move fairly effortlessly thanks to the small bursa sacs within the shoulder joint space that protects them. However the following can cause injury, inflammation and impingement within the shoulder and they would be considered the main causes of shoulder bursitis:
- A sudden impact
- Repetitive strain
- Wear and tear
- Underlying inflammatory condition
What are the Symptoms of Shoulder bursitis?
Signs and symptoms of shoulder bursitis can include:
- Shoulder pain while lying in bed,
- Pain in the shoulder when raising the arm,
- Localized swelling and tenderness,
- Severe shoulder pain when lifting heavy objects, and
- Even shoulder pain at rest.
Shoulder bursitis can be felt as either right shoulder pain or left shoulder pain. As more people are right handed than left it is not unusual to expect right shoulder pain to be more prevalent than left shoulder pain.
How is Shoulder Bursitis diagnosed?
Bursitis in the shoulder is not normally associated with visual swelling so it can be hard to properly diagnose on visual examination. A proper diagnosis from a qualified health care professional is important to rule out other causes of shoulder pain and hence an ultra sound and X-ray will be required. In some cases an MRI may also be required to rule out any co-exist conditions that may have contributed to the condition.