There are many reasons why you may have a sore shoulder. Simply put, the shoulder is complex and there are many different causes that can make your shoulder painful. The good news is that there are many strategies that can bring you comfort and help your pain.
If you don’t know exactly why you have a sore shoulder, and it has come on gradually, you may have one of a basket of afflictions that we often call impingement, shoulder bursitis or shoulder tendonitis.
Shoulder bursitis or tendonitis, is a fancy way of saying that you have inflammation- swelling and redness- around your rotator cuff tendons. MRIs can’t always pick up this diagnosis. An MRI may show fluid around the inflamed area but that fluid can be from a lot of things. So it may not be overly helpful in this case except to help you learn what is NOT causing the pain.
This is a diagnosis that is usually best made the old fashioned way- by a good physical exam.
If you are confused about why shoulder soreness is sometimes called bursitis and other times tendonitis, you are not alone. The two structures are in such close proximity in the shoulder that it may not even be worth making the distinction. For clarity sake, the bursa is a tissue that lives between the rotator cuff and the undersurface of the shoulder blade. Like the rotator cuff itself, it can get red and inflamed.
The bottom line is that all 3 diagnoses above can usually be treated effectively with small bouts of daily physical therapy.
In isolation most shoulder bursitis, rotator cuff tendonitis and impingement resolve with time, structured therapy, oral medications or injections. A typical therapy course should run in the 8-12 week range for maximal effectiveness. If these remedies do not work, or the therapy seems to be worsening the problem, then there are minimally invasive, low risk surgeries that can usually get you back in shape quickly.
Of course bursitis and tendonitis can coexist with other problems such as rotator cuff tears and in that case your situation may be more complex.
If you have shoulder bursitis, impingement or rotator cuff tendonitis that continues to nag you and prevent you from moving your shoulder in a comfortable way please contact us for more information or a personal consultation.