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What Is Shoulder Bursitis?

Bursitis is one of the most common shoulder injuries and occurs when the ‘bursa’ (a sac of fluid in the joint) becomes irritated or injured, and further responds by producing more synovial fluid in an attempt to protect itself and the surrounding tissues which leads to inflammation.

Generally, it is identified by a constant, dull ache around the shoulder joint and/or a sharp, pinching pain when lifting the arm. In some cases, pain can radiate down the arm and cause weakness when lifting (even very light objects).

What Causes Shoulder Bursitis?

Bursitis can be caused by many factors some including: 

  • Repetitive strain/ friction
  • Fall on the shoulder/ frequent pressure applied eg  sleeping on the same side every night
  • Poor shoulder posture/positioning – reduced sub acromial space
  • Underlying medical conditions eg arthritis or previous shoulder pathologies 

Common Clinical Presentations

There are a number of different bursa around the shoulder that may be affected, but the most common type of shoulder bursitis is subacromial bursitis, which is pictured below.

If Left Untreated

When left untreated, symptoms gradually get worse and secondary problems can progress. If early intervention and treatment is applied it can prevent long term problems and risk of developing into chronic bursitis.

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