Deltoid Bursitis (Subacromial Bursitis)

What is Deltoid Bursitis (Subacromial Bursitis)?

The word “bursa” refers to the fluid-filled sacs that are often found around joints. These soft, pillowy membranes protect bones from knocking again each other, as well as from rubbing directly against other soft tissues, and increase the flexibility and durability of the joint. The subdeltoid bursa is located between the shoulder socket joint and the deltoid muscle, which forms the rounded cap on the top of the shoulder. The subdeltoid bursa reduces friction in the shoulder and allows this complex joint to move more easily. When this bursa becomes inflamed, damaged or irritated, one is said to be suffering from deltoid bursitis.

What Are The Major Symptoms?

The shoulder will be painful, especially when moved. Throwing or overhead movements may be particularly uncomfortable to perform. Applying pressure to the shoulder or placing any weight on the joint, such as by leaning, will also increase the pain. The shoulder may feel stiff, and visible swelling and redness may also be present. The patient may be unable to move the shoulder very far, or have their full range of motion inhibited, because of pain, but a doctor manipulating the joint will be able to bend the shoulder through a normal range of motion without resistance.

What Causes Deltoid Bursitis (Subacromial Bursitis)?

Any kind of bursitis is generally caused by some kind of injury to the bursa, usually by overuse of the joint or repetition of very specific motions. In addition to injury, bursitis can be caused by a disease like gout, or an infection. People who are elderly, diabetic, or overweight are at additional risk for developing bursitis, because of the extra strain on the joint, but it is seen in people of all ages and activity levels.

What Are The Treatment Options?

Because bursitis is tied to repetitive movement, it is important to identify which specific motion is causing the injury and cease performing that motion temporarily. Rest is absolutely necessary to let the bursa heal, and over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs will effectively reduce the pain and swelling. Once the pain is gone, a regimen of exercise therapy will get rid of any lingering stiffness, and will strengthen the muscles around the shoulder joint to prevent the bursa from becoming injured again. Staying mindful of the repetitive motion that caused the bursitis and protecting the joint from re-injury is also key. In the rare case that the bursitis was caused by an infection, a course of antibiotics will clear it up.

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