Our shoulder is a complex joint, consisting of a network of muscles, tendons, and bursae. These bursae, small fluid-filled sacs, act as cushions to reduce friction between the bones and soft tissues. However, when one of these bursae becomes inflamed, it can lead to a painful condition known as bursitis. Subacromial bursitis, specifically, affects the bursa located between the acromion and the rotator cuff tendons. In this blog, we’ll delve deep into what this condition is, what causes it, and how it can be treated.
What Is Subacromial Bursitis?
Subacromial bursitis refers to the inflammation of the bursa located between the acromion (the top part of the shoulder blade) and the rotator cuff tendons. Bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs that act as cushions, reducing friction between bones and surrounding soft tissues, such as muscles, tendons, and skin. In the context of the shoulder, the subacromial bursa plays a crucial role in facilitating smooth motion, especially during overhead movements.
When this bursa becomes inflamed, it can swell and cause pain. Eventually, this leads to the condition known as subacromial bursitis. This inflammation can impede the smooth movement of the shoulder joint and may restrict certain activities due to discomfort or pain.
What Does Subacromial Bursitis Feel Like?
Subacromial bursitis often presents with a characteristic set of symptoms related to inflammation of the bursa. If you or someone you know is suspecting this condition, here’s what it commonly feels like:
The most predominant symptom is pain at the top or outside of the shoulder. This pain can be sharp when making specific movements and dull or aching at rest.
- Aggravation with Overhead Activities
Activities that involve lifting the arm above the head, like reaching for an item on a high shelf or making an overhead throw, can intensify the pain.
- Pain when Lying on the Affected Side
Many individuals with subacromial bursitis find it uncomfortable to lie on the affected shoulder. This can disrupt sleep.
The shoulder might feel stiff, especially in the morning or after periods of inactivity.
- Reduced Range of Motion
Due to pain and inflammation, there can be a decreased range of motion in the shoulder. It might be harder to move the arm in certain directions without discomfort.
- Clicking or Catching Sensation
Some people may feel or hear a clicking or catching sensation when moving the shoulder.
Remember, the severity and combination of these symptoms can vary from person to person. If you suspect you have subacromial bursitis or any other shoulder condition, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and appropriate management.
What Triggers Bursitis In Shoulder?
Bursitis in the shoulder, specifically subacromial bursitis, can be triggered by various factors and conditions. Here are some common causes and risk factors:
Repetitive Motion or Overuse
Activities that require continuous and repetitive overhead arm movements can exert consistent strain on the shoulder. Professions like painting, carpentry, or even certain sports like tennis or baseball involve constant use of the shoulder joint. Over time, the repeated motion can cause wear and tear on the bursa, leading to inflammation and eventual bursitis.
A sudden impact or injury to the shoulder, such as a fall or a direct hit, can cause immediate trauma to the bursa. This acute trauma can lead to sudden inflammation and swelling, producing immediate pain and discomfort. Unlike repetitive strain that accumulates over time, direct trauma can cause sudden and severe bursitis symptoms.
Bone spurs, medically known as osteophytes, are tiny overgrowths of bone that can form on the underside of the acromion, the top part of the shoulder blade. These overgrowths can constantly rub against or irritate the bursa during shoulder movement, leading to inflammation and bursitis. In essence, the natural smooth movement of the joint is compromised due to these bone growths.
Rotator Cuff Injuries
The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons crucial for shoulder movement and stability. Injuries, strains, or tears to these components can lead to secondary inflammation that affects the nearby bursa. As these structures are closely interlinked, a problem in one can easily cause issues in the other.
Aging naturally brings about wear and tear in our bodily structures. As we grow older, our tendons can lose flexibility and become more susceptible to minor injuries. The reduced resilience of these tendons can make older adults more prone to conditions like bursitis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. This condition can cause inflammation in various joints. When it affects the shoulder, it may also lead to inflammation of the bursae, resulting in bursitis.
Other Medical Conditions
Certain conditions like gout, which leads to the deposition of uric acid crystals in joints, can cause inflammation. Similarly, diabetes and thyroid disorders can alter the body’s normal metabolic processes, potentially predisposing individuals to joint problems like bursitis.
Maintaining a poor posture, especially during prolonged activities like working at a computer, can lead to uneven strain on the shoulder muscles and tendons. Over time, this can put pressure on the bursa, causing inflammation and discomfort. Proper ergonomics and regular posture checks are essential to preventing such strain.
Previous Shoulder Surgeries
Post-operative scarring from prior shoulder surgeries can sometimes irritate the bursa. Scar tissue may not have the same flexibility or smoothness as natural tissue. And, leading to increased friction or pressure on the bursa during shoulder movements.
Recognizing and understanding these triggers can be instrumental in managing and preventing shoulder bursitis. Always consult a healthcare professional if experiencing any symptoms or if there’s a suspicion of bursitis.
How Do You Treat Subacromial Bursitis?
Treating subacromial bursitis involves a combination of medical interventions and self-care measures to alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and prevent recurrence. Here’s a comprehensive look at how subacromial bursitis can be managed:
Rest and Activity Modification
Initially, it’s essential to rest the affected shoulder to allow the inflammation to subside. Avoiding activities or motions that exacerbate the pain is critical. This doesn’t mean complete immobilization, which can lead to stiffness, but rather a careful balance of reduced activity.
Applying a cold pack to the affected shoulder can help reduce swelling and provide pain relief. It’s recommended to use the cold compress for 15-20 minutes at a time. It will ensure there’s a barrier, like a cloth, between the ice and the skin.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. It’s essential to use these medications as directed and ensure they don’t interfere with other health conditions or medications.
A trained physical therapist can introduce exercises that help strengthen the shoulder muscles, improve flexibility, and enhance the range of motion. These exercises can help offload stress from the bursa and prevent future flare-ups.
For cases where the pain and inflammation don’t respond to standard treatments, a healthcare provider might suggest a corticosteroid injection directly into the bursa. This can rapidly reduce inflammation. But it’s generally used selectively as repeated use can weaken tendons and tissues.
Some physical therapists use ultrasound waves to treat bursitis. This therapy can help reduce inflammation and promote healing.
In rare cases where bursitis is chronic and doesn’t respond to other treatments, surgery might be considered. The procedure, known as a bursectomy, involves removing the inflamed bursa. Sometimes, surgery may also address other issues in the shoulder, such as bone spurs.
Some people find relief from symptoms using treatments like acupuncture, massage, or chiropractic adjustments. It’s essential to discuss these options with a healthcare professional.
Always consult with a healthcare provider or orthopedic specialist to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for subacromial bursitis. They can offer guidance tailored to individual cases and ensure that treatments are both safe and effective.
Can Subacromial Bursitis Be Cured?
Subacromial bursitis can be effectively managed. And many patients experience complete relief from symptoms with appropriate treatment. The primary goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, and restore normal function to the shoulder. Through a combination of rest, medication, physical therapy, and sometimes more invasive interventions, the inflammation of the bursa can be reduced or eliminated.
For many, once the immediate inflammation is addressed and they adopt preventive measures, the condition doesn’t return. However, it’s worth noting that while treatments can effectively address the symptoms, some individuals might experience recurrent episodes. In such cases, it’s essential to maintain a proactive approach, incorporating preventive strategies and regular medical check-ups to keep the condition in check and ensure continued shoulder health.
Subacromial bursitis is a condition marked by inflammation of the bursa in the shoulder. This can significantly impact one’s daily activities and overall quality of life. However, with a comprehensive understanding of its causes, symptoms, and treatment options, individuals can effectively manage and often overcome this ailment. Through a combination of medical interventions, self-care practices, and preventive measures, achieving a pain-free, fully functional shoulder is entirely within reach.
As with any health condition, early diagnosis, timely treatment, and consistent follow-up are paramount to ensuring optimal outcomes. If you’re experiencing Shoulder pain, physical therapy for shoulder pain at PhysioMantra can help: Book an online physical therapy session.