Bursitis happens when at least one bursa becomes inflamed. Bursae are tiny, fluid-filled sacs that cushion bones, muscles, and tendons around your joint. The joint is likely to develop around shoulder joints that perform frequent repetitive motions or after sustaining an injury. While shoulder bursitis can flare up and resolve independently, physical therapy (PT) can accelerate your recovery and prevent a recurrence. The goal of PT is to help you return to your daily routine. Since the severity of the condition varies with patients, Suarez Physical Therapy, a skilled Las Vegas-based practice, can create a rehabilitation program designed to meet your needs. We can work with you to eradicate pain, improve flexibility, strength, and motion, and accelerate your recovery.

Understanding Shoulder Bursitis

Bursitis is an inflammation of your bursae. The bursae are tiny, fluid-filled sacs located near joints. They are a cushion between moving parts in your joint that stops bones, tendons, and muscles from rubbing each other. They reduce the friction that happens between soft tissues and hard bones. The subacromial bursae cushion the section between your shoulder's acromion and rotator cuff tendons.

A bursa is thin and functions without notice. Nevertheless, the shoulder bursa gets irritated or inflamed if there is a lot of friction. When this occurs, the bursa becomes thicker and sometimes produces fluid to create more cushion. Your bursa can be too huge if fluid is produced inside. It means there is reduced space in your shoulder for tendons and muscles to move around, which could lead to a loss of mobility and pain in your shoulder.

Sometimes, bacteria can colonize your bursa, leading to infections. It can be hard to distinguish between infected and inflamed bursa. 

Various forms of shoulder bursitis include the following:

  • Chronic — Repeated acute bursitis or repeat injuries can cause bursitis. It is the most prevalent form of shoulder bursitis. You can fail to experience symptoms before having symptom flare-ups for months. With time, the inflammation can result in shoulder and arm weakness.
  • Acute — It happens suddenly from an injury or accident. Moving or touching your shoulder can be painful.
  • Infectious — Occasionally, bacteria cause septic (infectious) shoulder bursitis. Your shoulder can feel warm to the touch and look purple or red.

Causes of Shoulder Bursitis

Some of the causes of shoulder bursitis include the following:

  • Incorrect posture.
  • Poor muscle coordination or muscle weakness.
  • Repetitive motions (arm twisting, throwing, or overhead lifting or reaching).
  • Calcium deposits in your shoulder.
  • Bone spurs in your acromion bone.
  • Shoulder surgical procedure.
  • Direct trauma.
  • Autoimmune diseases like thyroid, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, or gout disease.
  • Infection.

Risk Factors

Any person can develop shoulder bursitis. Athletes and specific professionals who engage in repetitive movements are at greater risk of developing this health condition. They include athletes, painters, builders, musicians, gardeners, carpenters, and individuals who play lacrosse, softball, baseball, or football.

You are also more vulnerable to this condition if you have the following:

  • Gout or arthritis.
  • Kidney disease.
  • Diabetes.
  • Thyroid disease.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.

Finally, bursitis is more common with aging.

How to Tell If You Have Shoulder Bursitis

Pain resulting from shoulder bursitis can come gradually or suddenly. You can experience sharp pain, mild tenderness, or a dull ache. You can experience pain:

  • When pushing with your fingers on your shoulder’s tip.
  • When pulling or pushing a door.
  • On the tip or outer side of your shoulder.
  • When rotating your arm.
  • When lifting your arm to different sides.

Other signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Pain that worsens following repetitive activity.
  • Radiating pain — The outside of the shoulder at the top of the arm can be painful, but as your signs and symptoms progress, the pain can radiate down the outside.
  • Shoulder tenderness — Your outer shoulder can be sensitive to pressure and tender. Putting pressure or lying down on the affected side can be uncomfortable.
  • Muscle weakness — As your condition worsens, you can avoid using your shoulder, causing your muscles to weaken.
  • Pain at the extreme range of motion (ROM) — As your signs and symptoms progress, it can be challenging to reach behind your back to zip a dress or wear a coat.
  • While notable swelling, like knee or elbow bursitis, is possible, it is often absent.
  • Tiredness, fever, and skin warmth and redness.

Diagnosing Shoulder Bursitis

Your physical therapist (PT) will perform a comprehensive evaluation, including evaluating your general health history. To understand your condition, the PT will ask you a few questions.

The physical therapist can gently press on the outer side of your shoulder to check whether it is painful to the touch. Additionally, they will observe your range of motion, including how you lift the arm and your posture.

They can also conduct the following diagnostic tests to test for other severe health conditions that might lead to shoulder pain:

  • X-ray to check for bone spurs, arthritis, and other issues affecting your shoulder.
  • Ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to search for bursa inflammation.
  • Joint aspiration to drain and test fluid in your bursa for gout or infection.

Additionally, they can collaborate with your orthopedic doctor.

Treating Shoulder Bursitis

Generally, shoulder bursitis gets better on its own. If conservative measures do not work, you might require:

Taking Medication

If the inflammation in the shoulder bursa is due to an infection, your doctor can prescribe an antibiotic.

The microorganism causing the infection influences the choice of antibiotic. Many patients with septic bursitis are treated using oral antibiotics. More severe cases can require antibiotics delivered intravenously and hospitalization.

Pain Medications and Corticosteroids

If home remedies are ineffective, the doctor can prescribe stronger painkillers. Nevertheless, they will not heal the primary causes of shoulder bursitis.

Another option is corticosteroid injections around your bursa. Nonetheless, you should have limited injections because they increase the possibility of rupturing your tendons.

Aspiration to Drain the Bursa

Even when inflamed, the subacromial bursa does not swell significantly. Nevertheless, your doctor can sometimes drain excess fluid from the bursa with a syringe and needle.

Assistive Device

When experiencing joint pain, keeping up with daily activities can be challenging. Luckily, there are assistive devices that can make your life easier. For instance, a reacher grabber can aid you in grabbing things high up on a shelf without reaching your arm overhead. Also, a long-handled sponge can help you reach places on the body without stretching your arm.

Surgical Procedure

Occasionally, your doctor can recommend a surgical procedure. Medical practitioners do not recommend surgery unless patients have experienced issues with little relief for six to twelve months.

During the procedure, the physician will perform it arthroscopically (they will make tiny incisions in the skin and insert surgical tools to remove damaged tissues that could be irritating or pressing on your bursa).

Sometimes, the doctor can remove the bursa, creating more room for your tendon. Physical therapy (PT) is recommended to enhance recovery.

Home Remedies

Generally, treating shoulder pain involves strengthening muscles and soothing inflammation. Below are some ways your physical therapist can advise you on relieving and managing pain at home.

Use Compression

Wrap your shoulder using an elastic medical bandage to reduce swelling and pain. Use a regular ACE bandage or a cold compression bandage.

Wrapping the bandage too tight can block blood flow. If your hand or arm begins to turn blue or feel tingly or numb, loosen your compression bandage.

Cold Compress

A cold compress can lower swelling and numb sharp pain in your shoulder. Apply your ice pack for twenty minutes, at least five times daily. You can use ice cubes in a plastic bag, a bag of frozen peas, or a frozen gel pack.

Avoid applying the pack directly to your skin. Instead, wrap it in a soft towel.

Anti-Inflammatory Medication

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) can reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Over-the-counter medications include naproxen, ibuprofen, and aspirin.

Activity Modification and Rest

Giving your bursa and rotator cuff time to recover would be wise.

Do not completely immobilize the shoulder since it can result in stiffness and reduce your ROM. Instead, change or stop the activity that caused your shoulder pain. Ensure that you move your shoulder gently. It will keep your shoulder muscles flexible and strong.

Pain Medication

Drugs like aspirin can ease pain, help you cope with your injury, and help you sleep better as you heal.

Painkillers can cause side effects like heartburn and stomach upset. Consult your physician if you take them for more than four (4) weeks.

Additionally, you can use pain relief creams and gels.

Heat Therapy

Use a heating pad, hot water bottle, or heated gel pack to soothe your stiff shoulder and relax tense muscles.

Preventing Shoulder Bursitis

While you can do little to prevent bursitis, you can take measures to prevent the condition.

Warming up

Warming up is for athletes and anyone who uses their shoulders for one-off or daily activities. Warming up involves gentle movements that promote circulation to the shoulder joint and the surrounding tissues, increasing flexibility and reducing irritation.

Exercise Gently

Before an activity, try incorporating gentle exercises into your everyday routine. Strengthening your shoulder muscles using weight-bearing exercises strengthens your shoulders and reduces joint strain.

Use light weights to prevent stressing your joints and causing more injuries.

Take Rests

If your hobby or occupation involves repetitive shoulder use, take frequent breaks to give the joint adequate time to rest between activities and allow the tissues to heal. If you use your shoulders daily, take time off occasionally so your shoulders get complete rest.

If you are starting a new activity, gradually allow the shoulder to adjust and build strength.

Use Ice

Use a bag of frozen peas or an ice pack to reduce inflammation. Wrap your ice pack in clothing to prevent direct skin contact. Apply for twenty minutes.

Put on a Brace

If your job strains your shoulders, wearing a shoulder brace can lower the strain on your joints and reduce the likelihood of joint inflammation.

Seek Medical Attention Early

One effective way to prevent shoulder bursitis is to seek medical treatment once you experience joint fatigue or discomfort. The team at Suarez Physical Therapy can recommend lifestyle changes and therapies to keep your shoulders free of stiffness, pain, and stiffness.

How Your Competent Las Vegas Physical Therapist Can Help You with Shoulder Bursitis

Your skilled physical therapist can work with you to develop an effective treatment program to accelerate your recovery. The program can include treatments and exercises that you can do at home.

PT can aid you in returning to your everyday activities and lifestyle. While the recovery duration varies, you can achieve results within eight weeks with a proper strengthening and stretching program.

  • Patient education — The physical therapist will evaluate how your body moves and what could contribute to your pain. They will address what triggers your symptoms and pain in your daily life before creating an individualized plan to assist you with various areas that cause pain. They can also recommend exercises for your flexibility and strength and modifications to your routine.
  • Pain management —The physical therapist can improve the shoulder pain by addressing the limited ROM and inflammation. They can offer treatments like icing your affected shoulder and teach you how to modify activities that cause pain. They will work to eliminate or reduce the need for medications like opioids.
  • Strengthening your muscles —Muscle imbalances and weaknesses can cause shoulder bursitis. The physical therapist should create a progressive and safe resistance program that strengthens the muscles supporting the shoulder. They can choose the most appropriate exercise based on your age, symptoms, and severity of your condition. They can use a hand cycle to build muscle endurance. Finally, they can teach you exercises to strengthen the core muscles to improve and support your movement.
  • Hands-on treatment —Your therapist can gently use manual therapy to move your shoulder joints and muscles. Manual therapy improves your shoulder movements. They can also offer gentle resistance to strengthen your shoulder area.
  • Functional training — After strength, motion, and pain improve, you should safely return to more vigorous activities. Learning limited and safe movements to lower your arm and shoulder stress is vital. The PT specialist can create activities to assist you in learning how to move your body safely and correctly.

What to Expect During Your Physical Therapy

Although ongoing physical therapy differs from person to person, some basics apply to everyone regarding what to expect at PT if you are getting started. Preparing for your PT ensures you have a positive experience and bear fruit.

Information to Prepare for Your PT

When preparing for your initial consultation, note down key facts about the history of your shoulder bursitis. Writing facts down prevents missing or forgetting key facts worth communicating.

Ensure that you answer the following questions before your consultation:

  • How and when did your shoulder bursitis start?
  • How well could you execute daily activities like lifting before your injury?
  • How is the problem changing?
  • What improves or worsens things?
  • How often do your signs and symptoms recur?

You should also tell your therapist about your pre-existing health conditions and prior treatment procedures.

Remember to carry your list of medications.

What to Put On Your PT

Be ready to move around a lot during your initial PT session. Therefore, wear clothes that are easy to move around in, preferably workout clothing.

If you are experiencing shoulder pain, wear a shirt that permits easy access to your arm and shoulder.

Initial PT Exam

After telling your physical therapist about your condition, they will conduct an exam. The therapist will measure the impairment causing your shoulder bursitis. Some measures they can take during the examination include the following:

  • Range of motion measurements.
  • Balance.
  • Testing strength.
  • Functional mobility.

After the exam, the PT will have an idea of a treatment plan to improve mobility and reduce pain. They will discuss your treatment goals and the expected rehabilitation course with you.

Treatment can start immediately after your evaluation or at your second appointment.

Setting Your PT Goal

Setting realistic goals is the most effective way to realize successful rehabilitation results. Before starting PT, think about what you want to achieve at the end of the program. Goals and the rehabilitation process are individualized. After setting the goals, discuss them with your knowledgeable therapist and determine the appropriate time frame.

Think about your rehabilitation goals in terms of impairment and function.

Functional goals help you with your daily routine. They can include:

  • Walking from your restroom to the bed.
  • Returning to work.
  • Ability to lift groceries without experiencing pain.

Impairment goals are measurable variables that are not optimal when physical therapy begins. They can include:

  • Improve the full strength of your muscles.
  • Improved balance.
  • Reduce pain in your muscles.
  • Restore your full ROM.

Contact a Competent and Compassionate Physical Therapist Near Me

Shoulder bursitis is a painful condition that affects patients of all ages. The condition can occur suddenly or gradually. It has many causes, but the most common is repetitive activity that creates friction in the shoulder. The physical therapists at Suarez Physical Therapy are experienced in identifying the root cause of shoulder pain. Thanks to our state-of-the-art technology and diagnostic methods. During your initial evaluation, we can examine your ROM, coordination, strength, joint mobility, joint motion mechanisms, and medical history. Once we establish the cause of the pain, we can combine PT methods to relieve and manage it and teach you different techniques to improve your strength and flexibility.

Do not allow shoulder bursitis to limit your physical abilities; contact our Las Vegas practice at 702-368-6778 to schedule your initial appointment and start your journey toward pain relief.