Bursitis of the Shoulder

Bursitis of the shoulder occurs when a bursa becomes irritated and swells. This condition is characterized by redness and swelling and is often a common source of pain and discomfort for many people.

The bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs that cushion the bones, tendons, muscles, and tissues throughout your body – including near your shoulder joint. They are very thin structures that serve to decrease the friction between hard bone and softer tissues. When there is too much friction, they react by getting inflamed or irritated. When this occurs, they sometimes produce fluid to make more cushion, which makes them considerably thicker.

Causes and Symptoms

There are multiple ways to get bursitis of the shoulder, but across all of them, it results from putting too much stress on the bursa. However, generally, the sources of bursae irritation can be divided into three types.

Chronic Shoulder Bursitis

This is the most common and develops over time due to the repetitive irritation of a bursa. In most cases, this is simply a result of overuse of the shoulder joint in ways that generate repetitive hard bone / soft tissue friction. Swelling is the most obvious symptom of this type.

Infected Bursitis (Septic Bursitis)

This condition is when a shoulder bursa becomes infected with bacteria. It is critical to treat the infection before it spreads and creates additional serious issues. Those with this condition experience excessive warmth at the inflamed shoulder bursa site, usually have pain, feel sick, and have a fever. The swelling may spread up and down your arm.

Traumatic Bursitis

This is also known as acute traumatic bursitis, and it is not common. It results from repetitively rubbing the shoulder joint against a hard surface, or bending the shoulder joint excessively. This type occurs rapidly after a traumatic event, such as a skier smashing their shoulder into a tree, or a worker falling and hitting their shoulder on a hard surface. For this type, swelling may be accompanied by bruising.

Closely Related Condtions

Bursitis of the shoulder is closely related to shoulder tendonitis and shoulder impingement syndrome and may occur in association with these other conditions.

Video Overview: Bursitis of the Shoulder (Subacromial Bursitis)

Health Newsletter

Get useful, helpful and relevant physiatry-focused health & wellness information

Stay informed about the newest advances for treating musculoskeletal, spine, sports injuries, and chronic pain.