Shoulder bursitis is a condition that causes the bursa, or the fluid filled sac around the shoulder cavity, to become inflamed. The bursa are found around several joints and help to decrease friction between the movable areas of the joint so that you can move your limbs smoothly. If bursitis occurs, causing inflammation in this area it can limit your range of movement and cause discomfort. Treatments like exercises to stretch muscles are key for recovery.
Causes and Symptoms of Shoulder Bursitis
Injury to the rotator cuff is one of the most common causes of bursitis shoulder. The rotator cuff is a set of tendons and muscles that joins the shoulder bones with those of the upper arm. This grouping is essential to providing adequate support for the joint. Overusing the shoulder or injuring it by lifting objects improperly or taking a hard fall can cause inflammation in this area, leading to shoulder bursitis.
Those that play sports that are dependent on strong, repetitive arm movements such as tennis, baseball or swimming are likely to develop this condition. Any activity that requires the patient to repeatedly raise the arm above the head or puts a great deal of pressure on the shoulders can cause the rotator cuff to become compressed, weakening the muscles and damaging the bursa.
When bursitis shoulder occurs, the shoulder joint will feel swollen and painful. This can manifest itself as a stabbing sensation during activities that engage the shoulder which then disappears when the body is at rest. As the condition becomes worse, the pain and the patient will eventually feel discomfort in their shoulder constantly. This pain will be the most severe during the night, and will often be accompanied by swelling or loss of motion in the affected joint.
How to Treat Shoulder Bursitis at Home
You must give your shoulder time to heal in order to eliminate the discomfort of shoulder bursitis. Avoid any activities that put pressure on the joint or cause you pain. This typically involves avoiding any activity that will require you to move your arms behind your body or above your head.
2. Use Ice or Heat Compress
Ice can help take down the inflammation and relieve the pain in your injured shoulder. Place a cold compress on the shoulder for 10-15 minutes three to four times a day. Avoid putting any ice directly on the skin as this can cause irritation.
Heat can also be used to help relieve a tense shoulder suffering from bursitis by promoting healthy blood flow to the area. Apply a heated compress to the affected area throughout the day to help relax these muscles.
3. Take Shoulder Bursitis Exercises
Exercise and physical therapy is essential to repairing the damage of bursitis shoulder. Your doctor will typically recommend several shoulder exercises. These will vary based on the nature or severity of your injury, but there are several common exercises that are recommended to help treat this condition.
- Shrug. Stand up straight and then shrug the shoulders up toward the ears. Raise them as high as you can without lifting the arms or putting excess strain on the shoulder, and then hold the position. This exercise helps to stretch the surrounding tendons so they are capable of a wider range of movement.
- Squeeze. Squeeze the shoulders together, pulling them as far backward as you can. Hold the squeeze for a few seconds, then push the blades down and back to stretch the tendons, holding this position for a few seconds.
- Wand. Hold a stick or a wand in each hand, pointing it horizontally in front of the body at hip level. Lift the hands holding the stick to shoulder level, holding the position for a few seconds, then returning to the starting position. Perform this exercise in sets of 10-15 to increase the range of motion and build strength in the shoulder.
- Pendulum. Place a bench on the side of your body where the shoulder is injured. Lean on the bench so that your torso is parallel to the ground, allowing the injured arm to hang down. Rock the hand in a clockwise fashion 10-12 times, then reverse directions and repeat. Performing this exercise 2-3 times a day can help relieve tension in your shoulder joint and increase the shoulder’s range of motion.
- Side pull. Acquire rubber tubing, which you will tie to a door knob. Stand with the injured shoulder facing away from the knob and hold the rubber tubing in the hand of the injured arm. Pull the tubing across the chest, working to do this movement slowly. Repeat the motion 10-12 times or as long as you can manage without stressing the shoulder.
- Stretching. Stand with the arms straight and bring the injured arm over your head, using the other arm to help you lift it. Gently pull the elbow in the opposite direction, bringing it down toward your back to stretch the shoulder. Repeat this motion 10-12 times or as much as you can manage to help relieve tension in your shoulder.
The following video provides a detailed instruction on stretching as well as tips:
Medical Treatments for Shoulder Bursitis
1. Physical Examination
In order to properly diagnose shoulder bursitis your doctor will need to complete an examination. This will include a review of your medical and family history, a physical examination of the area and diagnostic tests such as an X-ray and MRI to evaluate the damage. In most cases, these tests will reveal calcification of the bursa which is consistent with chronic shoulder bursitis.
2. Anti-inflammatory Medicines
In most cases, bursitis shoulder is caused by damage to the bursa. To correct the damage, your doctor will inject you with prescription anti-inflammatory medication to take down the swelling. This may include Celebrex, Aleve, Advil or Motrin. Injections will be given in specific doses based on the nature and severity of the injury.
3. Injection and Surgery
In the event that anti-inflammatory medications fail to provide adequate relief your doctor will consider additional treatments to take down the swelling. Steroid shots can be injected into the affected area to take down the inflammation. Should these also fail, the doctor will consider performing a surgical procedure to drain the bursa and reset it to its proper location.