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Feb 12, 2024

Does Shoulder Bursitis Go Away On Its Own?

patient suffering from shoulder bursitis wondering if it will go away on its own

Shoulder bursitis is a debilitating condition that often causes pain, difficulty moving the impacted area, and sometimes redness and swelling. It’s a condition not to put off getting help for, especially if you’ve felt it worsening. Treatment for bursitis can be highly effective when applied soon enough.

What is Shoulder Bursitis?

Bursitis itself is a term used to describe any inflammation in the bursa, which is the thin, sac-like space between skin and bones, ligaments and the bones, or tendons and bones. This can happen in various areas of the body, including the hips, elbows, and shoulders. When the bursa becomes inflamed, the sacs, which are supposed to work to help allow for proper gliding and movement of the joint or tissue, become painful. It can range from mild to severe and may become septic if not cared for properly.

If you suspect you may have shoulder bursitis, seek out physical therapy sooner rather than later. Earlier treatment may help minimize the worsening of this condition.

One of the steps your physical therapist or doctor will take is to understand the underlying cause of the condition. The most common cause is overuse of the area, which can cause inflammation to develop. Other conditions can cause this pain, too, including the development of arthritis or an infection. These tend to require more advanced care, especially if they are progressing.

Common Symptoms of Bursitis

The most common symptoms of shoulder bursitis include:

  • Pain, especially at night
  • Stiffness and swelling in the shoulder
  • A sharp pain when moving the arms overhead
  • Difficulty with moving the shoulder overall
  • Shoulder pain that is otherwise not explained

Some people experience a dull pain in the morning that improves when they start using their shoulder. Others feel pain when they lie on their shoulders. Still, others have mild pain and redness of the skin in the impacted area. Treatment for shoulder bursitis can be highly effective if you don’t put off getting the help you need.

Does Shoulder Bursitis Go Away On Its Own?

physical therapy for shoulder bursitis using resistance bands

It may be possible for shoulder bursitis to improve on its own over time. However, physical therapy can help speed up this process while also minimizing the risk of it worsening. It’s a good idea to have this condition checked out by a doctor, especially if it is limiting your overall mobility and quality of life.

Because this condition is typically caused by overuse of the shoulder, reducing that use can help give the shoulder tissues time to heal. For example, shoulder bursitis is often diagnosed in athletes who are throwing, swimming, or otherwise engaging their shoulder in the same repetitive motion over and over again. Giving your shoulder a break from those activities may improve it.

However, many people will need additional support and treatment. You should not be afraid to get physical therapy, as it may help to improve your overall healing process and minimize any lasting complications.

How is Bursitis Treated?

A variety of treatment options are possible, depending on the condition and the severity. Most of the time, the most conservative approach will be taken to help provide pain relief and allow the body to heal. For example, activity modification is typically the first step to give the area time to heal. In some situations, the use of anti-inflammatory medications, like over-the-counter pain medications, can also offer some initial help.

This treatment works for mild cases, but as conditions worsen over time, it becomes more important to choose a more extensive treatment. This is where the use of physical therapy for injuries is so critical. Physical therapy is a customized, highly specialized treatment plan that addresses the function of the shoulder and muscles in the area, ensuring they are working properly and encouraging an improved range of motion. With manual therapy like this, your pain can improve over time.

For those with infected bursitis, which is bursitis brought on by an infection in the shoulder tissues and bursa sacs, it is essential to have a doctor provide care. This may include aspirating the bursa to reduce its size and using antibiotics to kill off the bacteria present. Typically, there is also a need to rest the area to allow it to heal.

More advanced care may be an option. For example, there are instances in which surgery is necessary, though this is a rare incident. If a person develops a chronic condition that does not improve with traditional therapy, surgery may be recommended. The area will then need to heal, and, in some cases, physical therapy and rehabilitation may be necessary.

When to See a Physical Therapist

If you have mild limitations to the use of your shoulder and pain that comes and goes, you may be able to modify your activities and allow the inflammation to improve. If you have any signs of an infection, including redness, swelling, or a fever, visit your doctor immediately for the first line of treatment.

It is often best to seek out physical therapy for shoulder bursitis if the condition does not improve on its own with rest, icing, and anti-inflammatory medications. Your physical therapist will create a treatment plan to address the specific areas of concern you have, such as improving posture, ensuring the joints and muscles are functioning as they should, and improving overall inflammation in the area with manual therapy.

physical therapy massage for shoulder bursitis

Don’t put off seeing a physical therapist. With early intervention, you may be able to avoid more complicated health matters and may see a significant reduction in your pain sooner.

Get Treatment for Shoulder Bursitis

At Rock Valley Physical Therapy, our highly specialized physical therapists can help you rehab and rebuild your shoulder to reduce pain, improve muscle function, and provide you with pain relief. If you believe you have this condition, do not put off getting treatment for shoulder bursitis with our highly qualified physical therapists. Contact us today.