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Bursa are fluid filled sacs that reduce friction and cushion the tissues within a joint. The bursa of the shoulder are called the subacromial bursa, and they cushion the area between the rotator cuff and the acromion (shoulder blade). Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa.

Types of Bursitis

There are three types of bursitis: chronic, infected, and traumatic. Chronic is the most common, and is caused by repetitive overhead movements that increase friction between tissues, that can in turn irritate and inflame the bursa. Infected bursitis is caused by bacterial infection, and traumatic bursitis is caused by acute trauma, which often occurs in sports.


Some common symptoms of bursitis are pain with movement, stiffness, and swelling. Chronic bursitis is characterized by swelling, while infected bursitis involves more severe symptoms like pain, inflammation, tenderness, fever and swelling spreading throughout the body. Traumatic bursitis can be characterized by the immediate onset of swelling and tenderness.


All types of bursitis can be treated with rest, ice, immobilization and over the counter pain medication for the pain and inflammation. Antibiotics can help with infected bursitis, and compression and padding can help with traumatic bursitis. If the bursitis is severe, steroids, an aspirate, or arthroscopy may be helpful. An aspirate is removing fluid from the bursa. Most bursitis can be treated non surgically, as it is mostly a chronic issue that flares up occasionally. Finding out what aggravates the pain and avoiding or modifying those activities can help prevent further pain.​

Risk Factors and Prevention


People that do a lot of repetitive overhead motion are at risk for bursitis, as well as older people. Illnesses like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, and thyroid diseases are also associated with bursitis. 


To prevent subacromial bursitis, avoid or modify behaviors that put pressure on the shoulders. Wheel heavy loads, and take lots of breaks during activities involving heavy lifting. Exercise to strengthen the muscles of the shoulder joint, and warm up and stretch before activity of the shoulder.






CC Healthwise, Incorperated