Physiotherapy Gold Coast

All You Need to Know About Shoulder Bursitis

Shoulder bursitis is more than just a temporary discomfort; it’s a condition that can significantly impair your quality of life. Characterised by the inflammation of the bursa — a small fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between bones and soft tissues in your joints—it leads to pain, swelling, and restricted movement. 

This condition is a common issue that affects a broad demographic from athletes to the elderly. Understanding bursitis’s complexities is the first step towards effective management and recovery. By taking a comprehensive look into its causes, symptoms, and treatment options, we aim to provide you with all of the knowledge you need to navigate this condition. 

What is Shoulder Bursitis?

Shoulder bursitis, a prevalent cause of shoulder pain, arises from the inflammation of the bursa located in the shoulder. This condition manifests itself through discomfort and restricted movement — impacting daily activities and overall well-being. 

The shoulder’s complex anatomy, consisting of multiple joints, tendons, and muscles, is predisposed to various forms of stress and injury, making bursitis a common ailment. Individuals most susceptible to developing bursitis include athletes, manual labourers, and those with a history of shoulder injuries. 

However, it doesn’t discriminate. Age-related wear and tear or repetitive motion can also lead to bursitis in a broader population. Understanding the anatomy and function of the shoulder can elucidate why bursitis occurs and how it affects so many people.

The Amazing Shoulder Design

Shoulder bursitis, a common shoulder injury, can occur if any one of these muscles is not functioning properly. This malfunction can cause the humerus to slip out of its optimal position, moving upwards and starting to rub against the small cushion (bursa) situated between the top of the ball and the AC (acromioclavicular) joint. The friction and pressure lead to inflammation of the bursa, a condition known as shoulder bursitis, highlighting the importance of addressing any underlying biomechanical issues. 

Physiotherapy Gold Coast

Rather than direct injury to the bursa itself, it’s these biomechanical discrepancies that often need attention and treatment, underscoring the complex interplay between shoulder anatomy and the development of bursitis. Understanding what causes bursitis in the shoulder is crucial for effective treatment and prevention, emphasising the need for a comprehensive approach to shoulder health and recovery.

Common Causes of Shoulder Bursitis

Shoulder bursitis doesn’t arise without reason; it’s often the culmination of various factors that strain the shoulder joint. Key causes include:

  • Repetitive Motion: Frequent, repetitive shoulder movements can irritate and inflame the bursa.
  • Injury: A direct blow or injury to the shoulder can lead to bursitis.
  • Poor Posture: Chronic poor posture can alter shoulder mechanics, placing undue stress on the bursa.
  • Overuse: Engaging in activities or jobs that require constant shoulder use increases bursitis risk.

Recognising these causes is fundamental in addressing bursitis. By understanding what leads to this condition, individuals and healthcare providers can work together to formulate effective prevention and treatment strategies.

Symptoms of Shoulder Bursitis

A number of movements can cause bursa pain, and symptoms can be as simple as general shoulder pain. The most common are:

  • Pain on the outside or top of the shoulder
  • Pinching pain on lifting the arm, when reaching or lifting something in front of you
  • An ache that begins when the shoulder is in motion or at rest
  • Discomfort when pushing on the top of or lying on the shoulder
  • Pain when “circling” the arm

When these symptoms persist, seeking professional help is crucial. Timely intervention can prevent further aggravation of the condition and facilitate a smoother recovery process.


ALT: Image of shoulder muscles

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

A thorough biomechanical assessment of the shoulder is the best way to determine the underlying causes of the pain and decide on the best course of pain management. Based on those findings, an exercise program can be used to assist in the restoring of the ‘best possible’ orientation of the joint. 

This in turn should relieve the pressure on the bursa, and help with long-term solutions, reducing the need to have an injection. An injection may be required if there is no response to the initial biomechanical treatment. The key here is to not rely on the injection, but still work on the core issue to aid the bursa inflammation.

Preventing Shoulder Bursitis

Local pain will reduce within the first few weeks of treatment, although the overall biomechanical strength may take some time to improve. Remember, the key is to understand the underlying cause of bursitis and seek recovery options from there. Knowing the root cause can ultimately prevent the injury occurring in the future.

Preventing Bursitis involves a combination of lifestyle adjustments, exercise, and awareness of body mechanics. Here are a few ways to help.

  • Strengthening and Flexibility Exercises: Regular exercise aimed at strengthening the shoulder muscles and improving flexibility can help maintain proper joint function and prevent excessive strain on the bursae.
  • Proper Posture: Maintaining good posture, especially if your work involves sitting for long periods or repetitive shoulder movements, can significantly reduce the risk of developing bursitis.
  • Ergonomic Adjustments: Making changes to your work environment to ensure it’s ergonomically friendly can decrease the strain on your shoulders. This includes adjusting the height of desks, chairs, and computer screens.
  • Rest and Recovery: Giving your body time to rest and recover after intense activity or exercise can prevent overuse injuries, including bursitis.
  • Gradual Increase in Activity: Slowly increasing the intensity and duration of physical activity can help the shoulder adjust without placing undue stress on the joint and bursae.


ALT: T-shirt showing shoulder pain location

Find Relief at Core Physiotherapy and Exercise Centre

At Core Physiotherapy and Exercise Centre, we understand the impact bursitis can have on your life. Our expert physiotherapists are dedicated to providing personalised, evidence-based treatment plans designed to address your specific needs. From the initial assessment to the final stages of rehabilitation, our team is with you every step of the way. We combine hands-on therapy, education, and tailored exercise programs to not only relieve your current symptoms but also prevent future occurrences.

With locations in Gold Coast and Brisbane, our clinics offer convenient access to top-tier physiotherapy services. Whether you’re dealing with acute shoulder pain or seeking strategies to prevent shoulder bursitis, our team is ready to support your journey towards optimal health and mobility. D

Think this might be you? Book in now and talk to one of our Core Physiotherapists and get to the source of the issue, so you can get back to enjoying a pain-free life!