Shoulder Bursitis: Why Won't Your Shoulder Pain Won't Go Away?

If the pain in your shoulder won't go away no matter what you do, you might have a problem called shoulder bursitis. Shoulder bursitis is a condition that develops in the fluid-filled sac (bursa) found between the rotator cuff and shoulder blade. Learning more about shoulder bursitis can help treat and manage your pain better.

How Does Shoulder Bursitis Develop?

Bursae are unique in how they function in the body. The thin sacs allow soft tissues like your tendons to freely and safely move over the hard surfaces of your bones and joints. If hard and soft tissues interact directly during movement, they create friction that eventually leads to inflammation in their bursae, or bursitis.

Bursitis in the shoulder can develop on its own when something irritates, damages, or infects the shoulder's bursa. The condition can occur when something injures or damages the tendon of the rotator cuff. The tendon swells, which places pressure on the bursa near it. 

Sometimes, inflammation in the bursa and tendon lead to shoulder impingement. Impingement refers to soft tissues when they become trapped between two bony surfaces. Shoulder impingement occurs when the swollen tissues become pinched between the acromion bone of the shoulder blade and the socket that holds the upper arm in place. The pinched tissues limit movement in your arm.

You find relief from your shoulder condition with the right treatment.

How Do You Treat Shoulder Bursitis?

Shoulder bursitis can worsen without physical therapy treatment. Until you see a physical therapist, refrain from anything that irritates your shoulder. For instance, if you play sports like baseball or work in a setting that requires you to lift, raise, or use your arm repeatedly, take a break.

During physical therapy, a specialist will try to improve the range of motion in your shoulder. Range of motion exercises increase flexibility, strength, and movement in your arm and shoulder. The exercises may include passive exercises, such as lifting your arm up and down. Other exercises include lifting light weights to strengthen your rotator cuff tissues. A therapist will generally add new exercises to your therapy sessions as you improve. 

If possible, a physical therapist at a health care clinic may work on other areas of your upper body during your therapy sessions. Some individuals develop neck and back problems when their shoulders hurt. The pain in your shoulder may cause you to tense up the muscles in these body areas. Tense muscles can weaken over time and cause additional health complications like poor posture.

It's important that you follow all of your therapist's advice during treatment. If you have concerns or questions about shoulder bursitis, contact a physical therapist for answers.