The shoulder joint is a complex system of muscles, tendons and ligaments, that are designed to move the arm in a number of directions. Injury to any of these parts, can cause restricted motion, pain and swelling.
The most familiar muscle groups in the shoulder are the deltoid muscle and rotator cuff. The deltoid muscle is responsible to lift your arm up and away from your body. The rotator cuff is actually made up of four muscles that are designed to allow rotation of the arm. Under the rotator cuff and above the glenohumoral joint (the ball and socket of the shoulder joint) is a large bursa sac, that separates the muscle from the joint. The purpose of the bursa, like other bursa throughout the body is to absorb shock and forces placed on the shoulder, and to allow the muscles to glide smoothly around the joint complex.
It is possible to have bursitis with other injuries of the shoulder, such as tendonitis and muscle tears. Repetitive movements seen in such sports as baseball, tennis, racquetball and volleyball are common sports with shoulder bursitis. Football is another contact type of sport that causes shoulder damage due to impact and abnormal or excessive range of motion.
When the joint is damaged, there will be swelling and pain with movement. When the muscles are swollen around the shoulder joint, the bursa becomes irritated and inflammed, leading to pain, swelling and restricted motion.
Symptoms of bursitis are similar to tendonitis and capsulitis of the shoulder. Pain on palpation and range of motion of the shoulder occur. There may be weakness in the shoulder, pain at rest and restricted movement.
Your physician may treat the condition initially with ice, to reduce the swelling, pain and inflammation. Resting the shoulder is key to resolving the bursitis. Heat can be placed over the shoulder several days after the initial injury to improve shoulder mobility and increase circulation to the affected area. A shoulder sling or shoulder brace maybe needed to immobilize the shoulder and arm and allow the area to heal.
More severe cases require non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy and a cortisone injection to reduce swelling, pain and improve function. Bursitis may be caused by a bacterial infection that requires aggressive antibiotic treatment, so if the problem is not resolving in a timely manner, seek medical attention.
It is important that you consult with a physician before attempting any treatment for a shoulder bursitis. Most cases of bursitis can be reduced by proper conditioning, stretching, warming up and cooling down following activity.
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Dr. Kenneth Shapiro