Shoulder Bursitis

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What is shoulder bursitis?

A bursa is a tiny fluid-filled sac that functions as a gliding surface to reduce friction between tissues of the body. The plural of bursa is bursae. There are 160 bursae in the body. The major bursae are located adjacent to the tendons near the large joints, such as the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees.

Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa. Injury or inflammation of a bursa around the shoulder joint occurs causes shoulder bursitis.

How does a bursa become inflamed?

A bursa can become inflamed from injury, infection (rare in the shoulder), or an underlying rheumatic condition. Examples include infection of the bursa in front of the knee from a knee scraping on asphalt (septic prepatellar bursitis), inflammation of the elbow bursa from gout crystals (gouty olecranon bursitis), or injury as subtle as lifting a bag of groceries into the car, which could inflame the shoulder bursa (shoulder bursitis).

What are shoulder bursitis symptoms and signs? How is shoulder bursitis diagnosed?

Bursitis is typically identified by localized pain or swelling, tenderness, and pain with motion of the tissues in the affected area. X-ray testing can sometimes detect calcifications in the bursa when bursitis has been chronic or recurrent. MRI scanning (magnetic resonance imaging) can also define bursitis. Shoulder bursitis is often accompanied by tendinitis of tendons adjacent to the affected bursa in the shoulder. Shoulder bursitis causes focal tenderness of the inflamed tissues. It can also cause a "pinching" pain when the elbow is moved away from the body, referred to as an "impingement" sign.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/16/2014

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