What Treatments Are Used for Bursitis in the Shoulder?

Treatments for bursitis in the shoulder include taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, resting the shoulder and icing the area, according to WebMD. If these home treatments do not work, steroids, physical therapy or surgery may be recommended.

A patient should contact his doctor if home treatment for bursitis does not cause the condition to improve in about a week, advises WebMD. Prescription drugs, such as steroids, are usually the first thing a doctor suggests after failed home treatment. Steroids are injected directly into the site of the injury and can quickly decrease the pain and inflammation that often occur with bursitis. Injections are usually effective and can be repeated, but they are often avoided because of potential side effects.

Physical therapy that includes exercises that work on the range-of-motion of the shoulder is also a common treatment option for bursitis, explains WebMD. Surgery may be an option if other treatments fail, but it is rarely needed.

Bursitis along with a fever over 102 degrees F, redness, swelling or warmth indicates a possible infection, and the patient should visit his doctor, states WebMD. Other signs of an infection include general illness, the inability to move the shoulder and multiple sites of pain.

Bursitis of the shoulder is an inflammation of the bursa, a sac filled with fluid that surrounds the shoulder joint, explains Cedars-Sinai. The usual cause is the movement of tendons within the bursa when the space is too tight. This can also irritate the tendons themselves so that they also become inflamed. The inflammation of the tendons and bursa further restricts the space and worsens the problem. This can cause the tendons to become pinched between bones as they move, a condition known as impingement.

Shoulder bursitis generally starts with a shoulder injury after which the inflammation of the shoulder grows steadily worse, says Cedars-Sinai. Many times this problem arises in people who naturally have smaller-than-normal spaces for their tendons so that any inflammation causes problems relatively quickly.