Treatment for Shoulder Bursitis: When Is It Necessary?

Shoulder bursitis is an inflammation of the bursa, a fluid-filled sac that cushions and lubricates joints. The shoulder joint comprises bones, tendons, and muscles that allow you to move your arm in many directions. When these structures become inflamed or irritated from overuse or injury (like falling on your outstretched hand), they can cause pain and swelling around your shoulder joint.

The first step to diagnosing shoulder bursitis is a physical examination. Your doctor will examine your Shoulder and look for signs of swelling, tenderness, and pain when moving your arm. 

Early diagnosis and shoulder bursitis treatment are essential to prevent further damage, reduce pain and discomfort, and prevent a recurrence.

What are the Symptoms and Diagnosis of Shoulder Bursitis?

One of the most common shoulder bursitis symptoms is shoulder joint pain. This pain can be a dull ache or a sharp stabbing sensation, worsening when the arm is moved or lifted. Another symptom of shoulder bursitis is stiffness in the Shoulder, making it difficult to move the arm freely. In some cases, patients may also experience swelling or redness in the affected area.

Diagnosis of shoulder bursitis begins with a physical examination by a medical professional. Your doctor may ask you about your symptoms and medical history and conduct various tests, such as imaging studies, X-rays or MRI scans, to confirm the diagnosis. Blood tests may also rule out other possible causes of shoulder pain.

What are the Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Treating Shoulder Bursitis?

Shoulder bursitis treatment typically involves a combination of rest, ice, and compression to reduce pain and swelling. Resting the affected Shoulder and avoiding activities that exacerbate the pain can help to promote healing. Applying ice packs to the area several times a day, can also help to reduce inflammation. Wearing a compression sleeve or bandage can further support the Shoulder and reduce swelling.

Physical therapy and exercise can also be beneficial for shoulder bursitis. Your doctor may recommend specific exercises to help strengthen the muscles around the shoulder joint, reducing strain on the bursae. Physical therapy can also help to improve the range of motion and flexibility in the shoulder, reducing the risk of future injuries.

Medications can also help treat shoulder bursitis. NSAIDs including Aleve (naproxen), Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen), and Bayer (aspirin), can reduce the symptoms of shoulder bursitis. Corticosteroids, such as Kenalog or Celestone, may also be prescribed for severe pain and inflammation.

What are the Surgical Treatment Options for Shoulder Bursitis?

In this blog section, we will discuss the surgical treatment options for shoulder bursitis, including bursectomy, acromioplasty or subacromial decompression, and muscle and tendon repair.

  • Bursectomy

Bursectomy is a surgical procedure involving removing the bursa in the shoulder joint. It is a standard shoulder bursitis treatment when non-surgical options fail to relieve shoulder bursitis.

  • Acromioplasty

Acromioplasty or subacromial decompression is another surgical shoulder bursitis treatment option for shoulder bursitis. This procedure involves removing or reshaping the acromion, a bone on top of the shoulder joint. It is done to create more space in the shoulder joint and give the shoulder bursitis relief by relieving pressure on the bursae. 

  • Muscle and Tendon Repair

Muscle and tendon repair is a surgical shoulder bursitis treatment option when a tear in the rotator cuff muscles or tendons causes the condition. The surgeon makes a small incision during the procedure in the shoulder and repairs the damaged muscle or tendon. 

When is Treatment for Shoulder Bursitis Necessary?

Shoulder bursitis treatment is necessary when the condition is chronic and does not improve with traditional therapy. In most cases, surgery is not required to treat bursitis and is typically reserved for chronic cases that have not responded to conventional treatments. If surgical intervention is necessary for shoulder bursitis, the most common procedure is an incision and drainage (I&D). However, this approach is only used for infected bursae. Here are some common symptoms of shoulder bursitis:

  • Pain in the Shoulder Joint

Shoulder joint pain is the most common symptom of shoulder bursitis. The pain is usually centred around the top of the Shoulder and can be sharp or dull. It may also worsen at night or when lying on the affected Shoulder.

  • Limited Range of Motion

Shoulder bursitis can also cause a limited range of motion in the shoulder joint. It means you may be unable to move your arm as freely as you normally would.

  • Swelling

The bursa in the shoulder joint can become swollen and tender to the touch. It can cause a visible bump or swelling in the shoulder area.

  • Stiffness

Shoulder Bursitis can also cause stiffness in the shoulder joint. It can make it difficult to move the arm or lift objects.

  • Weakness

In some cases, shoulder bursitis can cause weakness in the shoulder joint. It can make it difficult to perform everyday activities such as lifting or carrying objects.

Surgery may also be recommended if symptoms get worse or don’t improve with non-surgical treatments. This surgery may occur arthroscopically using small incisions and a tiny camera (arthroscope). 

The goal of shoulder bursitis surgery is to create ample space for the rotator cuff. It may involve removing the inflamed part or the bursa altogether.


To sum up, seeking medical attention for shoulder pain and stiffness is necessary as these symptoms could indicate a severe underlying condition requiring prompt shoulder bursitis treatment. Ignoring the pain and hoping it will disappear could lead to further complications and permanent damage to the shoulder joint. 

Early diagnosis and treatment can help alleviate the pain, restore mobility, and prevent further damage. Therefore, if you experience persistent shoulder pain and stiffness, do not hesitate to seek medical attention from a qualified healthcare professional.

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