Shoulder Pain and Problems

Bursitis Shoulder

General Orthopedic Description

When the bursae in your shoulder, or knees becomes inflamed or irritated it is known as Bursitis of the shoulder. Bursae are small liquid sacs that act as cushions between the joints. Bursitis of the shoulder can cause discomfort or pain.


The damage to the bursae often occurs when doing something in repetition, when the blunt damage occurs, or from an extreme sudden movement. The older a person becomes the more their tendons begin to deteriorate and cannot bear the same stress, flex as easily, and are more likely to tear.

If you have a job or play a sport that can cause the overuse of a specific joint you may increase the risk of getting bursitis. Things such as working around the house outside, or doing fixing things inside the house could become more dangerous with time. Sports such as baseball, golf and tennis can also lead to complications with bursitis, as well as a lack of stretching properly before an extreme activity.

Sometimes a joint or bone close to a joint may be abnormal or not positioned properly. Things such as arthritis can also irritate the bursae causing bursitis of the shoulder or knee. Reactions to medication may sometimes alleviate pain but you should always consult your doctor for the correct prescription. Taking unknown medication may increase the risk of pain or other side-effects. In some instances, infections have been known to lead to bursitis.

Typical Physical Therapy Treatment

There are multiple ways to treat bursitis. Some steps to take are to avoid any activities that could irritate the shoulder or knee joints. Making sure to give the injury time to heal and using ice for the swelling. There may also be medications you can get at your local pharmacy. If you do not feel improvement in one week make sure to contact your doctor.

It may also be possible for your doctor to prescribe drugs to reduce pain and swelling to the affected area. Different types of steroids are commonly used to combat irritation and pain in the joint. It is possible to use steroids multiple times are injected directly into the affected area. Side-effects from steroid usage may vary depending on the number of times they were used or by unknown variables within your biology.

Another option is physical therapy that uses many different exercises and motions to regain comfort in the joint. It is uncommon for shoulder or knee bursitis to lead to surgery however it does remain an option if other methods of treatment do not show improvement.

How to Prevent it

One way to combat bursitis before it occurs is to exercise and slowly build up your strength and tolerance of different joints including the shoulder. If you experience any pain while exercising cease what you are doing immediately. It is important to build slowly.

Although you cannot necessarily prevent bursitis from occurring, it is possible to reduce the risk that you expose your joints to. Make sure while working you use padding to cushion heavy loads and always bend and lift correctly. Carrying heavy loads for an extended period can cause irritation to the bursae in the shoulder and cause shoulder bursitis. Instead try other options such as working with a partner or using wheels to move objects. Make sure to be somewhat active as sitting for extended periods can lead to problems, especially if the surface is uncomfortable. Maintaining a healthy weight is also very important in taking care of your bursae. The more excess weight one has the more work the joints have to do, causing stress. Having a light exercise schedule can make all the difference in maintaining your joint care.

Tennis Elbow

Young lady wearing red playing tennis

What is it/what happens to cause this issue?

Tennis elbow is caused by an overuse of the arm, forearm, and hand muscles, ultimately resulting in elbow pain. Tennis elbow occurs by either a sudden or very subtle injury of the muscle and tendon that’s around the outside of the elbow, specifically involving the area where the muscles and tendons in the forearm attach to the outside bony area of the elbow. You may hear your doctor refer to this as lateral epicondylitis.

Symptoms to look out for in tennis elbow include:

  • -pain that slowly increases around the outside of the elbow.
  • -pain that gets worse when you shake hands or squeeze objects.
  • -pain that is made worse when stabilizing or moving the wrist with force. This happens when lifting, using tools, opening jars, or even handling simple utensils like knife and fork, or even a toothbrush.

What does a typical treatment look like?

Tennis elbow is diagnosed by the description of pain that you provide to your doctor, and findings from a medical exam, like worsening of the pain when you try to extend your wrist against resistance. Because many other conditions can cause pain around the elbow, it is vital to see your doctor so that a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment can be made.

The type of treatment that gets prescribed will depend on several factors that include age, type of other drugs being taken, overall health, medical history, and severity of pain. The treatments for this can range from physical therapy, forearm bracing, topical cortisone gels, topical anti inflammatory gels, and cortisone injections, all depending on the specific injury. Surgery is rarely required in these injuries. The goals of these treatments are to ultimately reduce pain or inflammation, promote healing, and decrease stress on the injured elbow.

Is there a recovery time before its gone or does it have lingering effects?

90% to 95% of people with tennis elbow improve and recover with the treatment plan that is prescribed to them. However, around 5% of people require surgery to repair the injured muscle tendon around the elbow. For 80% to 90% of people who have surgery, it successfully results in pain relief and return of strength.

What are the consequences of not treating it?

It is important to treat any of these symptoms before they become a more serious issue, and after treatment allow the elbow to rest. Ignoring this could lead to irreversible damage in your elbow, and ultimately lead to a disability.