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How do I Choose the Best Shoulder Bursitis Treatment?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Feb 06, 2024
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The best shoulder bursitis treatment is one that reduces inflammation; doing so decreases the severity of the problem as well as the pain involved. Bursitis is the inflammation of the fluid-filled sac between the body's bones and joints. In the case of the shoulder area, movement of the affected arm may be painful as well as aggravate the condition. While arm movements usually can't be avoided until shoulder bursitis subsides, avoiding moving the arms repeatedly in overhead motions is one of the best treatments.

Movements such as lifting weights or other objects above the shoulders can overstress shoulder joints and cause the bursa to become inflamed. The main symptoms of shoulder bursitis are pain and joint swelling. The best shoulder bursitis treatment for joint swelling is to treat the area with an ice pack. Ice packs should be wrapped in a towel before placing them on bare skin. Many cases of shoulder bursitis are caused by repetitive overhead movements, so these should be avoided whenever possible.

For people who sleep on their side, sleeping on the affected shoulder can aggravate the bursitis, so ideally that should be avoided. If resting and icing don't help heal the pain of the bursitis, medical help should be sought. Immediate professional medical attention should be sought if the shoulder joint is red and swollen; this often indicates infection. A doctor will prescribe antibiotics for infected shoulder bursitis treatment. Physicians may also administer several diagnostic tests that could include a blood test, ultrasound scan or x-ray.

If shoulder bursitis remains very painful, a doctor may treat it with cortisone injections. Cortisone is a hormone found naturally in the adrenal gland. Synthetic versions of cortisone are used as anti-inflammatory medicines by injecting them into joints to relieve pain and inflammation. Since shoulder bursitis is inflammation and cortisone is designed to relieve it, the injections can be the best shoulder bursitis treatment for reducing painful swelling.

If after three months, non-surgical treatments haven't been successful, surgery for shoulder bursitis may be the best treatment possible. Surgery for bursitis is rare though, since non-surgical treatments do often work to relieve the problem. Some bursitis sufferers may try other shoulder bursitis treatment options, such as acupuncture, before considering surgery. Acupuncturists insert tiny needles into the shoulder area to apply a steady pressure on specific points to encourage new blood flow into the bursa sac. Shoulder bursitis treatments such as acupuncture may be the best option in some cases because they may reduce the inflammation and help the joints move more fluidly.

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Discussion Comments
By bracka — On Apr 01, 2020

How do you stop shoulder bursitis from coming back?

I have had bursitis surgery, 2 years of shoulder physical therapy,

acupuncture, hydro dilation, anti-inflammatory medications. Six years later I've improved 5%.

All I take now are Topamax for headaches and oil oral for pain.

Problem is, from 1988 to 94 I had six operations on the same right shoulder and I am right-handed.

By bear78 — On Jan 31, 2013

@alisha-- If you don't wan't cortisone shots, your only other option is long-term shoulder physical therapy. It will take a long time but it will help strengthen your shoulder joints.

By burcidi — On Jan 30, 2013

@alisha-- You may want to alternate between cold and hot compresses. From my experience, this works better than only using ice packs as treatment for shoulder bursitis.

I also recommend using natural anti-inflammatory foods and oils to relieve the inflammation. For example, castor oil, avocado oil, olive oil and eucalyptus contain natural anti-inflammatory properties. You can apply these topically (individually not as a combination) on your shoulder.

Pineapple is a fruit that also helps fight inflammation, you can add this to your diet.

By discographer — On Jan 30, 2013

I have been using anti-inflammatory medications on and off for my bursitis but I don't want to be too dependent on them.

I use ice packs regularly but don't get enough relief. As for bursitis surgery, it's out of the question and also not needed according to my doctor.

What else can I do to relieve the inflammation and pain?

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