Shoulder Bursitis/Tendonitis: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Dr. Breanne Kelley discusses the causes, risk factors, and symptoms of shoulder bursitis, while going over common treatment options. She also discusses Airrosti’s approach to this condition and how we allow our patients to stay active during treatment.


Bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs that are located in joints throughout the body, including the shoulder. They act as cushions between bones and the overlying soft tissues and help reduce friction between the gliding muscles and the bone. Sometimes, excessive use of the shoulder leads to inflammation and swelling of the bursa between the rotator cuff and part of the shoulder blade known as the acromion. The result is a condition known as subacromial bursitis.

Bursitis is most often caused by repetitive, minor impact on the area, or from a sudden, more serious injury. Age also plays a role. As tendons age they are able to tolerate stress less, are less elastic, and are easier to tear. Overuse or injury to the joint at work or play can also increase a person’s risk of bursitis. Examples of high-risk activities include gardening, raking, carpentry, shoveling, painting, scrubbing, tennis, golf, skiing, throwing, and pitching. Incorrect posture and poor stretching or conditioning before exercise can also lead to bursitis.

Bursitis often occurs in association with rotator cuff tendonitis. The many tissues in the shoulder can become inflamed and painful. It can also cause a pinching pain when the elbow is moved away from the body, referred to as an impingement sign. Many daily activities, such as combing your hair or getting dressed, may become difficult.


Shoulder tendonitis (or tendinitis) is an inflammation injury to the tendons of your shoulder’s rotator cuff. A tendon is a flexible band of fibrous tissue that connects muscles to bones. Most tendonitis is a result of a wearing down of the tendon that occurs slowly over time, much like the wearing process on the sole of a shoe that eventually splits from overuse.

Improper technique in any sport is one of the primary causes of overload on tissues including tendons, which can contribute to tendinitis. People with jobs that require overhead work (such as assembly work) and heavy lifting are at risk of tendonitis. A direct blow to the shoulder area or falling on an outstretched arm can also cause shoulder tendonitis.

Shoulder tendonitis commonly has the following symptoms: shoulder clicking and/or an arc of shoulder pain when your arm is about shoulder height, pain when lying on the sore shoulder or lifting with a straight arm, shoulder pain or clicking when you move your hand behind your back or head, and general shoulder and upper arm pain (potentially extending as far as your elbow). As your shoulder tendonitis deteriorates, your shoulder pain may even be present at rest.


Treatment goals include reduction in pain and inflammation, as well as preserving mobility and preventing disability and recurrence. Treatments may include a combination of rest, wrapping, and use of ice packs for recent or severe injuries. Aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen are used to reduce swelling. Cortisone medication may also be injected into the swollen bursa. Physical therapy can sometimes be used to aid the recovery from bursitis, especially when it is accompanied by a frozen shoulder. Surgery may be needed if the tendon has been partially or completely torn.

For an alternative to pain management through injections and pharmaceuticals, invasive surgical procedures, or lengthy treatment plans, consider Airrosti. Most shoulder injuries are resolved within three visits based on patient-reported outcomes.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.