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Treatments for Shoulder Bursitis

By Lori Newell

Shoulder bursitis is a chronic condition that can limit your activities if not taken care of properly. It occurs when the bursa sac in the shoulder becomes inflamed or injured. If you have been diagnosed with this condition, then you will need to take steps to help it heal so you can return to your normal activities. Treatments for shoulder bursitis vary based on the severity of the condition. The sooner you seek care the better, as there will be fewer complications.


The first stage of treatment is to use rest, ice, compression and elevation for the area. Applying ice and elevating the shoulder will constrict the blood vessels, which, in turn, will allow the area to rest. Taking time away from activities that are painful will help the inflammation go down. Your doctor or therapist may recommend the use of a brace or wrap to help protect the shoulder while it is healing.


If the symptoms from your shoulder bursitis are interfering with your daily activities or if you are having trouble getting comfortable enough to sleep, medications may help. Anti-inflammatory pain medication, muscle relaxers and cortisone injections are all medications that can help. These medications can work by reducing your symptoms and lessening any swelling.

Fluid Aspiration

If the swelling associated with your shoulder bursitis is causing a buildup of fluid, your doctor may need to remove the fluid from your shoulder. A needle is inserted into the shoulder, and your health care provider will draw the fluid out. This fluid may be analyzed to help better understand your condition.

Physical Therapy

In some cases, an appropriate strengthening and stretching program designed by a physical therapist can help. If the muscles surrounding your shoulder joint become weak or deconditioned, then there is more pressure on your joint, which can lead to injury. This is also true if the muscles, tendons or ligaments are very tight, as they will pull the joint out of alignment. A therapist can work with you to design a program of exercise that will help to support the activities you enjoy. In addition, a licensed therapist can use techniques such as ultrasound and muscle e-stim to help manage the pain as you become more active.

Modifying Your Activities

After your shoulder bursitis has begun to feel better, you may want to return to your normal level of activity. You will need to learn how to participate in your favorite hobbies and activities without re-injuring your shoulder. Cross training by doing activities that use your shoulder muscles in a different way will help to make your joint strong and keep you from overusing the area. Warming up properly and using good body mechanics will help to reduce strain on the joint.

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