Shoulder Bursitis

Shoulder Bursitis

We have discussed the condition of shoulder bursitis in previous newsletters. Recently in the clinic, we have seen an increase in shoulder bursitis or correctly named subacromial bursitis.  What is bursitis you may ask? Bursitis is basically inflammation of a fluid sack which has the primary role to reduce the friction of tendons or muscles gliding across joints. Bursa is found in several joints, however, the more important ones are located at the hips, elbow, shoulder, knee.

The subacromial bursa is located between the rotator cuff tendons and the acromion (see diagram below), in subacromial bursitis the bursa becomes inflamed and swollen and gets impinged when you lift your arm up above your head.

Above are a series of diagrams that show what the bursa is doing during range of motion showing how it impinges and causes pain.
Bursitis is often caused by repeated micro trauma to the shoulder, such as repetitive use of the shoulder joint, or by a single event such as a fall.

Symptoms of Shoulder Bursitis

Symptoms of shoulder bursitis

  • Gradual onset of your shoulder symptoms over weeks or months.
  • Pain on the outside of your shoulder.
  • Pain may spread down your arm towards the elbow or wrist.
  • Pain is made worse when lying on your affected shoulder.
  • Pain is made worse when using your arm above your head.
  • Painful arc of movement – shoulder pain felt between 60 – 90° of arm moving up and outwards.
  • When your arm is by your side there is minimal pain and above 90° relief of pain.
  • Shoulder pain with activities such as washing hair, reaching up to high shelf in the cupboard.

Subacromial bursitis is often diagnosed by history and examination along with ultrasound. In some rare cases, an MRI may be required.


  • Ice and Anti-inflammatories
  • Manual Therapy (Osteopathy)
  • Exercise (strengthening) and stretches provided by your osteopath
  • Ergonomic advice.

If symptoms don’t subside then an ultrasound-guided cortisone injection is required. In rare cases, surgery is required to decompress the subacromial bursa.

Shoulder bursitis, if not managed properly or if you return to full activity too early can flare up, thus the importance to treat it correctly.

If you have any questions please contact or speak to your practitioner at Complete Healthcare Sunbury.