Physiotherapy Gold Coast

Shoulder Bursitis Causes and Support

Shoulder bursitis is one of the most common shoulder injuries. Inflammation of the shoulder bursa can cause significant pain and decreased range of movement if left untreated. There are often underlying factors in play in cases of shoulder bursitis, and the questions ‘how’ and ‘why’ should be addressed when looking at treatment for long term shoulder recovery.

The amazing shoulder design

The shoulder is a ball and socket and numerous muscles threading through a capsule or sleeve that surrounds the joint, allowing the shoulder to move in a number of directions. Every muscle has a key role in tensioning and positioning the ball in the socket. If any one of these muscles is not functioning properly, the ball (humerus) slips north and starts to bump on the small cushion (bursa) that sits between the top of the ball and the AC (the joint of the shoulder) – causing inflammation.

So, the issue is not the fact that the bursa has been directly injured but the underlying biomechanical issue that needs to be treated.

Causes of Bursitis

Bursitis can occur from a range of issues;

  • Muscle strain or tears causing weakness on one of the rotator cuff muscles.
  • Poor posture and weakness of the upper back and shoulder blade muscles.
  • Weekend warrior, or day to day activities that your body is not accustomed to performing.

Shoulder bursitis is caused by the socket not sitting in its proper position, resulting in the humerus travelling north and creating further inflammation of the bursa.

Sign & Symptoms

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 elevating the arm, eg. when reaching or lifting something out 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

Assessment and Treatment

A thorough biomechanical assessment of the shoulder is the best way to determine the underlying causes of the pain. 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.


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.

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!