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Shoulder Bursitis & Rotator Cuff Tears - Part Three

In part three of our series on rotator cuff tears we look at shoulder bursitis and it’s relationship to your rotator cuff.

Bursitis is a painful condition that occurs when the small, fluid-filled sacs (bursae) that cushion the bones, tendons and muscles near your joints become inflamed.

This can happen due to injury, over-use, infection or an underlying rheumatic or arthritic condition.

Bursitis most commonly affects the shoulder, although it can also occur in the bursae around the hips, elbows, knees and heels. It can be very painful and have a profound effect on work, sports, exercise and sleep quality.

What are the symptoms of shoulder bursitis?

Symptoms include:
–    Pain
–    Swelling
–    Redness
–    Stiffness
–    Restricted movement

The pain associated with shoulder bursitis is usually worse when you lift heavy objects or raise your arm, but you may also feel discomfort while lying in bed or when your shoulder is at rest.

Bursitis often occurs in the same arm you use for writing.

Diagnosis begins with a physical examination and we may also run imaging tests such as X-rays, ultrasound scans or MRI scans. It’s important to screen for other possible causes of shoulder painand rule out a more serious injury.

How is bursitis treated?

Bursitis can usually be treated with cortisone (steroid) injections and physiotherapy. You can also use ice compresses to reduce swelling discomfort and anti-inflammatory medications to ease your pain.

It’s important to get plenty of rest and you may need to take a break from the activity that caused the bursitis.

Occasionally, fluid may need to be drained from the bursae with a syringe to relieve pressure.

If your pain continues despite these treatments, we would suspect a rotator cuff tear and investigate further.

If left untreated, shoulder bursitis may become chronic, which can lead to scar tissue formation, further irritation even permanent loss of movement in the area. For this reason, it’s important to seek specialist help as early as possible.

For part four in our series Treating Rotator Cuff Injuries, we look at the types of injuries and the treatment options available to you.