Close look on shoulder bursitis

Shoulder bursitis and rotator cuff tendonitis involves inflammation of an area within the shoulder joint that triggers a common set of symptoms. These symptoms are correctly termed as “impingement syndrome” which occurs once there is inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons and the bursa that borders these tendons.

The shoulder joint is considered complex. Impingement syndrome develops once there is inflammation between the upper part of the humerus and the acromion. Amidst these bones are the tendons of the rotator cuff and the bursa that provides protection to the tendons.

Possible causes of shoulder bursitis

It is important to note that impingement syndrome is a term used to describe pinching of the tendons and bursa of the rotator cuff between the bones. In most cases, the shape of the bones has reduced space than others. As a result, thickening of the tendons or bursa can trigger the symptoms.

Oftentimes, there is a primary injury that triggers the inflammatory process. Understandably, the issue can be considered as self-exacerbating. When there is an initial damage, the bursa and tendons become swollen. The resulting inflammation results to the thickening of these structures.

The thickening will take up more space, thus the bursa and tendons are compressed even more. This results to intensified inflammation and thickening of the bursa and tendons.

Shoulder bursitis

Pain on the exterior part of the shoulder or upper arm

What are the signs and symptoms?

The usual symptoms of shoulder bursitis include the following:

  • Pain while sleeping at night time
  • Pain while engaging in overhead activities
  • Pain on the exterior part of the shoulder or upper arm

A diagnosis of impingement syndrome is made with a physical exam. It is vital to consult a doctor for proper assessment since there are other conditions that have similar symptoms. An accurate diagnosis is vital so that proper treatment can be started. An X-ray is requested to properly assess the bony structure of the shoulder joint.

An MRI might be required to ensure that there is no indication of a rotator cuff tear. It is important to note that impingement syndrome and rotator cuff tear are dissimilar conditions which require different treatment. A rotator cuff tear might require surgery but most cases can be manage using non-invasive measures.


Many individuals who shoulder bursitis can achieve relief with non-surgical measures. In rare cases, surgical intervention is needed. The specific treatment options tend to vary depending on the preferences of the individual, expectations and response to treatment.