What is a bursa ?

A bursa is a tiny fluid-filled sac that functions as a gliding surface to decrease rubbing, irritation and friction between tissues of the human body. The plural of bursa is bursae. There are approximately 160 bursae in the human body. The major bursae are located adjacent to the tendons near the large joints, such as the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees, etc. The bursa act as a cushion between moving parts in the joint to stop muscles, bones, and tendons from rubbing together and causing friction and irritation.

Bursitis is really common in adults, especially in those over 40 years of age. Extenuating circumstances may cause this condition in someone irrespective of this mentioned age group.


What is shoulder bursitis ?

Basically, the condition bursitis is inflammation of a bursa. Bursitis of the shoulder is a painful inflammation in the shoulder joint, a very common and treatable condition. Although it takes months to heal often, it is not a fatal condition.

When a shoulder bursa gets irritated, it becomes inflamed and grows in size, which can be scary for the victim. This means that there is less space in the shoulder for muscles and tendons to move around, which can cause pain and a loss of movement in the shoulder.


What causes shoulder bursitis ?

There can be a number of causes for an injury such as a bursitis. This condition is most often caused by repetitive, minor impact on the area, or sometimes, from a sudden, more serious injury. An injury as minor and subtle as carrying groceries from the car to the house may sometimes cause shoulder bursitis. Injury or strain of the muscles and joints can be other causes.
There are so many risk factors for a condition such as a shoulder bursitis. Some activities that may or may not cause shoulder bursitis include:

  • Throwing an object with force
  • Throwing a ball, especially during games
  • Lifting or carrying objects above your head
  • Putting unnecessary strain or pressure on your joints and muscles
  • Trauma of a fall to the shoulder, etc.

are capable of causing major or minor damage to a person’s shoulder. Another factor that could play a major role in causing this condition is age. As we all know that as we grow older, our joints and muscles stop working the way they used to when we were younger. So, straining our bursae when they are already weak in our old age may cause this condition, which can be extremely painful and unbearable for an old person.


How is shoulder bursitis identified ?

Symptoms of a bursitis, especially one that causes discomfort in the shoulder include:

  • Localized pain (around the shoulder and in the tip of the shoulder)
  • Pain when the shoulder is touched, accidentally or intentionally
  • Redness of the shoulder
  • Swelling and tenderness in the joint
  • Impingement in the affected area
  • Focal tenderness of the inflamed tissues
  • Inflammation, burning sensation in the affected area
  • Difficulty moving the affected body part

The pain may become worse at night, especially if the patient accidentally ends up lying on the affected shoulder in bed. It may also get worse if the shoulder is kept too still for a long while and has not experienced any necessary movement.

X-ray testing can sometimes detect calcifications in the bursa when bursitis has been chronic or recurrent, which is important because when these are identified, treatment can be more effective.

MRI scanning (magnetic resonance imaging) can also define bursitis. If the above symptoms are coupled with a fever, the bursa could be infected. This is known as septic bursitis, and a doctor or a medical professional needs to investigate the situation then.


How is shoulder bursitis treated ?

Since this condition is not as extreme or fatal as it sounds, there are a few ways of curing it; it is not incurable. Shoulder bursitis is treatable at home with various methods and with the help of a medical organization and professional.

The following treatments may help with a badly affected shoulder:

  1. Medicine
    Careful dosages of anti-inflammatories such as aspirin or ibuprofen or disprin should be taken orally by the patient to decrease redness, swelling and discomfort in the shoulder.
  2. A Heavy Rest
    Decreasing shoulder movement from maximum to minimum could prevent the bursa from getting even more irritated and give it the time it needs to heal. A shoulder brace can be of huge help. Along with the rest, some very careful and gentle shoulder exercises can prevent the joint from becoming stiff.
  3. Use of Ice packs
    When an injury, overuse or any other unfortunate mis happening causes bursitis, an ice pack should help within the first five to six days. The patient should apply ice every 15 to 20 minutes at 4 to 6-hour intervals to decrease pain, tenderness, redness and swelling of the affected muscles and joints.
  4. Physical therapy
    Exercises can be performed on the affected shoulder gently and carefully to aid the recovery from bursitis, especially when it is accompanied by a frozen shoulder.
  5. Steroid injections
    Even after making use of the above-mentioned treatments, if symptoms persist, a medical professional can inject corticosteroids in or around the bursa. This will help in reducing swelling and discomfort of the affected joints. The effects may be temporary, but treatment can be repeated several times without causing further harm and damage. Steroids are usually injected at the same time as the aspiration procedure.
  6. Aspiration
    In some cases, shoulder bursitis may require aspiration of the bursa fluid. This procedure involves elimination of the fluid with a needle and syringe under sterile conditions and should be performed in the doctor’s clinic. Most of the fluid is sent to the laboratory for further analysis.
  7. Surgery
    This is the last option, and is rarely opted for. Surgery is recommended as a final option when shoulder bursitis is long-term and does not respond to treatment after 6 to 12 months. A surgical operation can repair damage and reduce the pressure in the bursa.