The suffix ‘itis’ is commonly employed when discussing diseases to indicate an inflammatory condition. Among the inflammatory conditions that affect the shoulder joint, two prevalent examples are shoulder bursitis and shoulder tendonitis. Although they arise from distinct anatomical structures within the shoulder, these conditions present similar symptoms, including pain, inflammation, and swelling.

In most cases, the swelling associated with these conditions exhibits greater warmth than the surrounding body tissue. This phenomenon is due to an underlying infection that gives rise to inflammation. The resulting swelling is typically restricted to the area of the infection and is considered a localised response. Moreover, this swelling is often limited to the ipsilateral side of the body, i.e., it appears solely on the side affected by the condition.

Individuals afflicted by shoulder bursitis or tendonitis often report stiffness and reduced mobility in the affected joint. These symptoms are caused by the inflammatory response to the infection and can significantly impact an individual’s ability to carry out their daily activities. Therefore, prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment for shoulder bursitis or tendonitis are necessary to alleviate these symptoms and promote optimal recovery.

Management and Treatment Options for Shoulder Bursitis

Bursae is an area that lies in the subacromial region. It is the space between the shoulder blades and the rotator cuff tenders. This is a thin sac-like structure, which may or may not be filled with fluid. Bursae are located throughout the body, near various joints, in empty spaces. These sacs are responsible for reducing the friction caused due to the movement of the joint. 

If there is an infection in the bursa, there is a rise in the fluid content of these sacs. This causes pain and difficulty in moving. Shoulder bursitis is a condition where an injection occurs in the shoulder’s bursa. There are mainly two types of shoulder bursitis, depending on the duration of the occurrence of the disease.

  1. Chronic shoulder bursitis is an infection that has been prevalent for a long time. It generally occurs due to extensive joint movement in an incorrect manner. This type has a dull pain that may or may not increase with time. 
  2. Acute shoulder bursitis is the type of shoulder bursitis that has occurred over a shorter period. It may occur due to a sudden jerk or movement. This type of shoulder bursitis is generally accompanied by a sharp shooting pain. 

The treatment plan for shoulder bursitis greatly depends on the type of shoulder bursitis. Here is how it is treated-

  • The treatment plan for chronic bursitis

Chronic bursitis generally occurs due to incorrect postures and log-time activities that affect the bursa and shoulder joints negatively. The first line of action in this type of shoulder bursitis is identifying the cause of it. Then, the doctor recommends eliminating the cause by correcting body posture and recommending exercises that help in reversing the effects of the preliminary action. In several minor cases, this is the ideal line and most effective line of treatment. 

However, in some extreme situations, the level of infection is higher. This, in turn, means that the patient is in severe pain and cannot perform correcting exercises. In this situation, immobilisation of the shoulder joint reduces the intensity of movement. Then, antibiotics are administered to reduce the level of infection. In cases where the swelling is severe, anti-inflammatory drugs are administered to reduce the swelling. If these fail to work, the advanced treatment modality is the administration of steroid and cortisone injections.

Home management of chronic shoulder bursitis includes correcting body posture and supporting the shoulder joint. Restricting sudden movements and sports for a temporary duration may help provide the shoulder joint with some relief. Further, ice packs are a great way of reducing pain and inflammation. Use an ice pack 2-3 times for 15-20 minutes daily. Ensure not too sure heat packs, as this aggravates the level of inflammation.

  • Treating acute shoulder bursitis

In most cases of acute shoulder bursitis, the sac is filled with extensive fluid. This causes unbearable sharp shooting pain and restriction of movement. Irritating this fluid can help reduce the sac’s size and pain. Aspiration is the most common treatment modality. Further, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs may also be recommended.

  • Shoulder tendinitis treatment

One of the most common causes of shoulder tendonitis is sports, incorrect, and overuse of the shoulder tendons. Sudden movements, jerks, and improper techniques often cause the tendon to tear or get infected. A direct or sudden blow to the shoulder tendon can also result in shoulder tendonitis.

There are mainly two lines of action that help in shoulder tendonitis. They are-

  1. Eliminating the causative agent
  2. Dealing with the effects of the causative agent 

The first step of treatment is identifying the causative agent or action. Restricting certain movements can help reduce the adverse effects, preventing shoulder tendonitis from spreading further. Patients are often asked to think back to when the pain first occurred and the action they were doing then. After sports and exercises, one of the most common reasons is sleeping in an awkward position.

After eliminating the cause of shoulder tendonitis, the doctors recommended a path of action that can help reduce the disease’s current state. The primary treatment modality includes physiotherapy and radiation therapy. A physiotherapist creates a set of exercises that will help reduce inflammation. Along with radiation to reduce swelling, physiotherapy helps greatly in cases of shoulder tendonitis.

The next course of action is administering antibiotics and analgesics to reduce the level of inflammation and infection. Ibuprofen is the preferred drug in this case. In severe cases, surgery is the last course of action. The bicep tendons are completely or partially cut to reduce shoulder tendonitis.


Shoulder tendonitis and chronic shoulder bursitis are common results of incorrect body postures and improper exercise techniques. Identifying it at an early stage can help reduce the effects, thereby early elimination of the disease. Stretching and strengthening exercises at home can play a major role in building up the strength of the core muscles, which helps in keeping the muscles healthy in the long run. Visiting a doctor at the earliest can help to avoid the need for advanced treatment modalities.

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