How Long Does Shoulder Bursitis Last
Shoulder bursitis is one of those painful conditions that can really mess up your day. It’s an inflammation of the lining in the bursa — a fluid-filled sac located under the arm — that causes pain when you move it. This occurs most often among people who are involved with sports like tennis, golf, bowling, weight lifting, football, baseball and swimming. The condition also affects women more than men because they wear smaller clothes that don’t allow for full range of motion.
The symptoms include tenderness, swelling and limited movement of the affected area. You might feel pain on moving or simply stretching. Other symptoms include fever, redness, drainage (clear liquid coming out) and warmth around the area.
Bursitis is caused by overuse, trauma and injury. Overuse of the joint, which means repetitive movements like throwing, swinging, catching and pushing, leads to damage of the tissues. Trauma includes twisting, pulling, pushing, crushing or rubbing the shoulder against something hard. While these injuries rarely occur, they cause a lot of pain and discomfort, especially if not treated properly. Finally, if the capsule surrounding the shoulder becomes inflamed, it gets called impaction syndrome. Impaction syndrome is common in young athletes who play sports where their arms swing forward and back repeatedly. In this situation, the ball rolls into the joint rather than sliding smoothly across its surface. As a result, friction builds up between the cartilage and the ball, causing pressure inside the joint.
The treatment depends on how severe the case is, but it typically involves rest, ice packs, compression garments, heat treatments and anti-inflammatory medications. If the inflammation doesn’t go away after two to three weeks, see your doctor. Most cases require medical attention only, but some need surgery.
To learn about what happens during shoulder bursitis, read on.
Does shoulder bursitis always hurt? What should I do if my shoulder hurts?
Not every shoulder ache requires a trip to the doctor. Some pains are minor enough to take care of at home. But even though minor, it’s important to treat them right away so they won’t get worse.
If you have any doubt about the severity of your pain, you should consult a physician. Aching joints or muscles are part of everyday life, but sometimes pain associated with arthritis, rheumatism, fibromyalgia or other illnesses could make it difficult to determine whether the pain is serious enough to visit a health professional. Also, if you think you’re having a heart attack, seek immediate help.
Shoulder bursitis is different. Pain related to this condition is sharp, intense and localized. For example, when you put your hand down on your elbow, you’ll know exactly where the pain is. However, if you experience a dull ache, it’s unlikely that it will worsen. There are many things to consider before deciding to self-treat.
First, if the pain is mild, try resting the affected area. Apply ice packs and continue taking ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen sodium (Aleve) or aspirin (Ichthamul). Ibuprofen relieves pain and reduces swelling while Naproxen Sodium and Aspirin reduce fever and inflammation. Heat helps relax tight muscles and relieve tension. Soak in hot water for 10 minutes and then apply a heating pad. Don’t use heat too long, however, because it can burn skin tissue.
Next, check yourself for infection. If you notice pus or blood, wash the area gently with soap and water. Afterward, cleanse the area with alcohol wipes or Clorox disinfecting cloths. Use cotton swabs to dry off the wound. Your skin has bacteria that can spread to open wounds. Always keep your hands clean, and avoid sharing towels, bed linens and personal items like razors, combs and toothbrushes.
Don’t wait until tomorrow to call a doctor; 24 hours is recommended. If you have persistent pain, fever, chills, extreme weakness, difficulty breathing or swallowing, chest pain, confusion, rapid heartbeat or dizziness, call 911 immediately.
Read on to find out what happens during shoulder bursitis.
What is a bursa?
Your shoulder contains a series of small fluid-filled cavities called bursae that serve as cushions between bones and soft tissue. They act as shock absorbers and protect your body parts from impact and stress. Because of their protective function, they become inflamed easily.
When the shoulder is injured or overused, the bursa next to the rotator cuff tendon ruptures. Blood leaks into the bursa, forming a purulent fluid that irritates the surrounding tissues. The resulting inflammation causes pain and stiffness.
During shoulder bursitis, the fluid in the bursa increases in size. As a result, it moves farther away from the bone and prevents the good blood supply from reaching the muscle. This decreases circulation in the region, making it swell and soften.
This fluid buildup makes the condition harder to treat. Once the fluid leaves the bursa cavity, the swollen area heals faster. Without treatment, the condition can last months and even years.
So, does shoulder bursitis always improve without treatment? Read on to find out why not all sufferers respond equally.
Is shoulder bursitis contagious?
Yes, although it isn’t highly contagious. You can catch it through contact with someone else’s bodily fluids, such as saliva, tears or urine. People with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to infections. To prevent spreading the disease, stay away from others and wash your hands thoroughly after touching anything infected.
Can shoulder bursitis turn into cancer?
No. Although bursitis is painful and unsightly, it is not dangerous. However, if left untreated, bursitis can progress to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation can lead to scarring and thickening of connective tissues, which can eventually develop into cancerous tumors known as malignancy. Fortunately, unlike breast cancer, it is rare to develop tumors in the shoulder.
Can I treat myself for shoulder bursitis?
You can treat yourself for shoulder bursitis, but only if you follow proper guidelines. First, consult your doctor if you have fever, draining sinuses or signs of infection. Next, drink plenty of fluids, eat nutritious foods and rest the shoulder. Ice packs and heat pads can ease pain and inflammation. Applying moist bandages over the sore area can provide extra support.
For severe cases, you may want to ask your doctor about using glucocorticosteroids, such as prednisolone — a type of cortisone drug. Prednisolone relieves swelling, reduces pain and speeds healing.
Keep reading to discover how long shoulder bursitis lasts.
Will shoulder bursitis ever completely go away?
Most patients recover fully from shoulder bursitis. However, not everyone experiences the same degree of improvement. The length of time required to heal varies according to the individual patient. Factors affecting the rate of recovery include age, general health, location of the lesion, extent of injury and amount of activity.
As mentioned earlier, children tend to suffer from shoulder bursitis less frequently than adults do. Children grow quickly, and their shoulders aren’t fused together as tightly as ours are. Therefore, their joints are able to move freely. Youngsters who participate in vigorous activities, such as playing basketball or hockey, are prone to developing pain.
In addition, it takes teenagers longer than adults to heal from bursitis. Teenagers spend more time doing strenuous activities, such as practicing dance or gymnastics. These activities put added strain on the shoulder joints, increasing the chance of injury. The average male adult walks approximately 2 miles per week, whereas teenagers walk 1 mile per day. Adults generally exercise for 30 minutes each day, while teens exercise for only 15 minutes. Since teenagers’ shoulders aren’t yet completely developed, they must strengthen gradually.
Finally, adults tend to live sedentary lifestyles. Their bodies are used to working for several hours each day. Our daily routines place additional strain on our bodies, including our shoulders. Many adults engage in heavy manual labor. As a result, their shoulders lose flexibility and strength.
With proper rest and rehabilitation, most people can expect complete recovery from shoulder bursitis. However, if you haven’t improved in seven days, consult a doctor.
To learn more about shoulder bursitis and related topics, look over the links on the following page.
If you’ve ever had shoulder bursitis, you know that it’s no picnic. Swelling, throbbing pain and loss of mobility can wreak havoc on your ability to work and enjoy your favorite hobbies. And if you’re still nursing an old case of bursitis, you probably aren’t eager to start the process again. Luckily, you can speed up the process of recovery if you follow the instructions below.
Follow your doctor’s orders carefully. He or she will prescribe the appropriate course of action for your specific condition. If you don’t comply, you risk further complications. Take all prescribed tablets exactly as directed. Resting is extremely important.
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