Shoulder Bursitis


Shoulder bursitis is one of the most common problems seen in an orthopedic practice. The shoulder is a unique ball-in-socket joint. It enables us to place our arms overhead, behind our back and in front of our body. Shoulders are complex joints involving a multi-axial joint. It can be injured at any age group, but is most common over the age of forty.

The shoulder is kept in place by several groups of muscles. The most common is the rotator cuff muscles which are four in number. Between the roof of the shoulder blade and the rotator cuff is a bursa. It provides lubrication that allows the tendon to glide freely in the joint. When shoulder bursitis occurs then the joint does not move freely and pain can occur.

Bursitis occurs most frequently after overuse. This may happen after doing some activityrepeatedly. There will be pain when the shoulder is raised overhead. The pain usually occurs in the front and the side of the shoulder. Due to the pain, weakness of the shoulder will also occur. Patients will especially have trouble lifting there arm to the side and across the chest. Also it will cause pain at night especially when trying to lie down on that side. Once the bursa becomes inflamed the underlying rotator cuff will often become irritated and painful. This will result in rotator cuff tendonitis.


Most cases of bursitis respond to rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medication. Patients should ice their shoulder three times a day for 10-15 minutes. Ibuprofen and naproxen reduce the inflammation and thus the pain. In those patients who don’t respond to these measures physical therapy may be added. If the above measures do not relieve the pain then a cortisone injection may be helpful. It is rare that a patient ever needs more treatment. However, if pain persists then an MRI may be necessary to make sure that there is no other underlying pathology.


Orthopedic Center of Arlington
701 Secretary Drive
Arlington, TX 76015
Phone: 817-468-8400
Fax: 817-468-8512

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