Shoulder Bursitis

Within your shoulder lies a small, fluid-filled sac called a bursa. We have bursa all around our body, and they work to reduce the friction that would otherwise be created from tendons rubbing against bone – which in turn would cause pain and inflammation.


The particular bursa we’re talking about is called the subacromial bursa, named after its location beneath acromion bone in your shoulder. When this bursa gets injured or irritated, it becomes inflamed. Because of its proximity to the bones and tendons that it serves to help, it then causes movement in the injured site to cause pain, until the inflammation settles and the bursa is repaired.


Okay, so what has caused the bursa to become injured and swollen in the first place?

The main cause for shoulder bursitis is overuse. When you repetitively (and often strenuously) use your shoulder, the structures of the shoulder, you risk damage to both the tendons as well as the bursa. Think of bowling in cricket or swimming, as well as daily tasks such as hanging the washing, gardening and painting.

Other causes include:

  • – Accidents and trauma, such as falling on your shoulder
  • – Shoulder impingement, also often associated with overuse
  • – Systemic conditions that cause inflammation such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • – Weakening and degeneration of the muscles and tissues


What will I feel?

Aside from pain at the shoulder that tends to progressively worsen when left untreated and when you continue to perform the same repetitive activities, you may feel:

  • – Stiffness at the shoulder joint
  • – A feeling of tightening around the upper arm
  • – Weakness when moving the arm
  • – Referred tenderness down the arm to the elbow
  • – An inability to sleep on the side of the affected shoulder due to discomfort
  • – More comfortable with the arm in a sling (or positioned across the body as if it were in a sling)
  • – Intense pain when attempting to lift the arm above the shoulder, like grabbing groceries down from the top shelf of a pantry