About Bursa & Shoulder Bursitis

The human body consists of 160 bursae, which are small fluid-filled sacs that help in reducing friction in the body’s joints, such as the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees.

An injury or inflammation of the shoulder bursa leads to a condition called Shoulder Bursitis. Repetitive use of the joint during activities, such as gardening, playing tennis & golf, carpentry, and more, causes damage to this sac resulting in pain, inflammation, and tenderness.


Injuries and repetitive use of the shoulder usually leads to Bursitis. Some of the other causes of Bursitis include:

  1. Infections
  2. Repetitive attacks on the joint
  3. Age; people above 40 years of age are at a higher risk of facing this condition
  4. An abnormal or poorly placed bone in the shoulder joint
  5. Inflammation due to diseases, such as, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Gout, Thyroid disorders, and more
  6. Side-effect or reaction from a medication
  7. Non-indulgence in stretching exercises before playing sports

Signs and Symptoms

Pain, swelling, and tenderness, are the three main symptoms of Bursitis.


A General Physician or an Orthopedic Surgeon is the subject matter expert.

Tests and Investigations

The following tests and investigations help detect Bursitis:

  1. X-Ray: Using radiation, an X-Ray testing helps create images of the shoulder bone.
  2. Ultrasound: Using high-frequency sound waves, an Ultrasound gives better images of the shoulder, including the bursa.
  3. MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging gives detailed images of the shoulder & its tissues using magnetic fields and radio waves.

Treatment Modalities Available

The treatment for Bursitis depends on whether the condition involves an infection or not. Surgeries are very rare, and only recommended when all other treatments fail.

The treatment modalities available when there is no infection, include:

  1. Putting the shoulder to rest
  2. Avoiding activities that increase pain
  3. Applying ice-compression packs
  4. Taking oral anti-inflammatory medicines, or a Cortisone Injection in case of extreme pain
  5. If conjoined with a Frozen Shoulder, Physiotherapy under a Physiotherapist’s supervision helps treat Bursitis
  6. Under rare cases, getting an Aspiration of the Bursa Fluid, that is, removing the fluid with a needle and syringe after sterilization

An infectious Bursitis, which is usually uncommon for a shoulder joint, requires antibiotic therapy – oral, as well as, intravenous at times. Repeated Aspiration of the inflamed Bursa Fluid, drainage of the fluid through surgery, and removal of the infected bursa sac by performing a Bursectomy Surgery, are the other alternatives to treat a septic Bursitis.

Complication in Management

Severe pain in the shoulder during Bursitis may lead to loss of motion, medically termed as Adhesive Capsulitis or Frozen Shoulder.

Precautions and Physical Activity Requirements during Treatment

To avoid further complication, physicians recommend avoiding activities which would cause pain. Taking prescribed medications on time and doing the exercises as suggested by the Physiotherapist helps reducing the risk of a Frozen Shoulder & worsening Bursitis.

Prevention to Avoid Recurrence

Regular exercising and avoiding overuse of the shoulder help in non-recurrence of Bursitis.

Support from Family

Any patient suffering with Bursitis is always in great pain. Hence, support and assurance from the family members help him to easily pass through the phase of this condition.

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