Shoulder bursitis is a painful condition that occurs when the bursa (a fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion to reduce friction in the joint) becomes damaged, irritated or inflamed. Bursitis can affect people at any age, but tends to be more common in athletes and middle-aged and elderly people.

In athletes, shoulder bursitis may develop as a result of a direct blow in a contact sport, repetitive friction from throwing sports, a fall in which the shoulder absorbs the force, or lifting, such as lifting weights to an overhead position. In older individuals, it may develop as a result of calcium deposits on the clavicle (collar bone).

Individuals with shoulder bursitis experience the following common symptoms:

  • Pain in the shoulder or upper arm
  • Shoulder pain when the arm is extended, then raised or lowered
  • Shoulder pain when elevating the arm overhead
  • Shoulder pain or weakness when rotating the arm
  • Difficulty lifting overhead
  • Pain when sleeping on the affected shoulder
  • Shoulder stiffness

A shoulder specialist at Lancaster Orthopedic Group may recommend an X-ray to assess the anatomy of the shoulder and make an accurate diagnosis. An MRI may be considered to ensure there is no sign of a rotator cuff tear or other damage.

Conservative treatment for shoulder bursitis includes resting and icing the shoulder for two or three days to reduce inflammation. An injection of corticosteroids may relieve swelling and pain, and physical therapy may help to stretch and strengthen muscles and tendons. If the bursitis is severe, your physician may recommend surgery to repair a tendon or remove inflamed tissue.