The first step of shoulder bursitis treatment is to decrease the inflammation. This is best done by avoiding the problems that cause inflammation. The best rule of thumb to follow: 'If it causes pain, don't do it!' This includes simple activities such as reaching high objects or reaching behind yourself.
Inflammation can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications such as Motrin, Advil, Aleve, Celebrex, or one of many others. These all fall within the category of 'non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.' Taken by mouth, these medications help with the inflammation of the tendons and bursa, and also help reduce the discomfort.
Ice application is a helpful treatment of inflammation for several reasons. Ice can help relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and stimulate blood flow to the injured shoulder.
Some simple exercises or physical therapy may help you return to normal activities without pain. These exercises help to strengthen the rotator cuff and help the shoulder move more efficiently. In addition, it is important to avoid activities that irritate the rotator cuff tendons. These include:
- Overhead weight lifting (such as military press, etc)
- Throwing activities
- Sleeping with the arm over or behind your head
If the symptoms are not adequately treated, the next step is usually a cortisone injection, or steroid shot, into the area of inflammation. If the symptoms are significant, your doctor may opt to perform this cortisone injection on an initial visit. The cortisone injection places medication to treat the inflammation directly in the problem area.
Is Surgery Ever Necessary for Treatment?
The simple answer to this question is yes, but the caveat is that surgery is rarely needed to treat impingement syndrome. Patients with shoulder bursitis almost always respond to non-surgical treatments. Usually these treatments begin to work quickly with resolution of symptoms over a period of one to three months. In some individuals who don't respond to simple treatments, surgery may end up being a necessary step.