Shoulder Bursitis: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Breanne Kelley, DC explains the common causes and symptoms of shoulder bursitis. She discusses traditional treatment options as well as Airrosti’s approach to this condition and how we allow our patients to stay active during treatment.


The shoulder is one of the most mobile and flexible joints in the body. The bones, tendons, and muscles of the shoulder all make up the rotator cuff, a flexible joint that allows you to lift and rotate your arm. Located within the rotator cuff are small fluid-filled sacs called bursae. These sacs act as cushions to help reduce friction during movement between the bones and overlying soft tissues.

Sometimes, excessive use of the shoulder joint leads to inflammation and swelling of the subacromial bursa within the rotator cuff. The result is a painful condition known as subacromial bursitis.


Bursitis is most often caused by repetitive, minor impact on the area that increase friction and irritate the bursa. Occasionally it can also occur after a sudden, more serious shoulder injury. Below are several key factors can increase your risk of developing shoulder bursitis.

  • Age can cause tendons to lose their elasticity and become more prone to overuse injuries.
  •  A history of injury or stress on the rotator cuff tendons.
  • High-risk activities that involve heavy shoulder use, including yard work, painting, carpentry, and sports that involve throwing or pitching.
  • Incorrect posture or lifting technique.
  • Lack of stretching or conditioning before exercise.


If a shoulder is affected by subacromial bursitis, the most common symptoms are shoulder pain, inflammation, and swelling in the affected shoulder. It can also cause a pinching pain when the elbow is moved away from the body, referred to as an impingement sign.

Other common symptoms of shoulder bursitis include:

  • Swelling and redness.
  • Weakness and reduced range of motion in the affected shoulder.
  • Worsening pain while sleeping or when performing push, pull, or lift movements.
  • Popping or crunching noises during shoulder movement.



Traditional treatment methods aim to reduce pain and inflammation. Conservative treatments include a combination of rest, wrapping the affected shoulder, and using ice packs to reduce swelling and pain. Aspirin and ibuprofen are common over-the-counter medicines used to reduce swelling. Physical therapy can sometimes be used to aid the recovery from bursitis, especially when it is accompanied by another injury such as frozen shoulder.

For most patients, conservative treatment with rest and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help. In rare or severe injuries, corticosteroid injections or surgery may be recommended.


Shoulder bursitis is a common injury that can be treated at home, but can take several weeks to heal on its own. It can also hinder your ability to work and perform many daily tasks. The pain can also set back many athletes and active individuals who don’t have much time to wait for recovery.

Airrosti treatment is a conservative, highly effective approach to injury diagnosis and treatment. We aim to help patients alleviate their pain and get back to normal activity quickly, avoiding lengthy pain management plans and unnecessary surgical procedures. In fact, most shoulder injuries can be resolved within three visits, based on patient-reported outcomes. Schedule an appointment with Airrosti today, and get back to doing what you love most, pain free.


Reviewed by Casey Crisp, Doctor of Chiropractic

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