What is Shoulder Bursitis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
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Shoulder bursitis is a type of inflammation which involves the bursa in the shoulder. A bursa is a fluid filled sac which acts as a shock absorber for a joint, with numerous bursae being found all over the body. Shoulder bursitis is the most common form of bursitis. This condition is easily treatable, especially in the early stages, although if it is allowed to persist, the patient may require surgery or other extreme measures.

One of the most common reasons to develop shoulder bursitis is strain or overuse. Trauma to the shoulder can also cause this condition. Often, the tendons which run through the bursa are involved as well, with tendinitis. Whether the condition involves the tendons or not, it is characterized by swelling in the bursa which limits the freedom of movement for the shoulder. People may be stiff, and movement is typically painful. Because of the swelling, some doctors refer to shoulder bursitis as “shoulder impingement syndrome,” referencing the fact that the impingement on the joint is the cause of the pain.


This condition can be identified by a doctor during a physical examination, and medical imaging studies can also be used to look for clear signs of inflammation. Treatment involves rest, to take strain off the shoulder, and the use of compresses to address the inflammation. Ice will help bring the swelling down, in addition to easing the pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs as well as medications for pain management can also be provided.

If shoulder bursitis is severe, anti-inflammatory medications may be injected directly into the shoulder for immediate relief. Patients may also opt to wear a sling or similar protective device to immobilize the shoulder during the healing phase. Keeping the shoulder still will limit pain, in addition to giving the shoulder an opportunity to heal.

Once the shoulder has healed, gentle physical therapy can be used to strengthen and tone the shoulder. A physical therapist can also provide advice which will help a patient avoid a recurrence of inflammation in the future. This advice can range from proper positioning of the shoulder at work to exercise recommendations. A follow up visit to the doctor may also be recommended so that the doctor can confirm that the inflammation is gone and clear the patient to return to work and normal activity levels. It is critical to avoid straining the shoulder before it is completely healed, as this may worsen the inflammation.



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Post 2

@boathugger: I believe my grandmother and your grandmother must have known each other! The terms that I have heard bursitis being referred to as are: “miner’s elbow”, “tailor’s bottom”, and “housemaid’s knee”.

Of course, we don’t really hear many of those terms used anymore but I still love to hear my grandma talk about her “tailor’s bottom” bursitis!

Post 1

I have received treatment for shoulder bursitis twice and it is not a fun experience!

I have heard my grandmother refer to bursitis by another name but I can’t remember what it is. It’s one of those “country” slang terms. I want to say “miner’s knee” but I don’t think that’s right. Does anyone know what that old term is?

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