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Subacromial bursitis has similar symptoms to Supraspinatus tendinitis with shoulder pain over a 60 degree arc when the arm is lifted sideways.
Symptoms of subacromial bursitis can be similar to those of supraspinatus inflammation or injury in the shoulder. There will be pain and weakness in the arm, particularly when it is lifted sideways through a 60 degree arc. Pain may also be felt when you press in at the inside front of the upper arm. If it is the tendon that is injured rather than the bursa there is likely to be more pain when the arm is lifted up sideways against resistance.
What is a subacromial bursa?
The Supraspinatus muscle runs along the top of the shoulder blade and inserts via the tendon at the top of the arm or humerus bone. This muscle is used to lift the arm up sideways and is also important in throwing sports as it is the muscle that holds the arm in the shoulder when you release what you are throwing.
There are massive forces involved in slowing the arm down after you have thrown something but few people bother to train these muscles preferring to concentrate more on the muscles the accelerate the arm rather than decelerate it.. A heavy fall onto the shoulder can also result in injuring the supraspinatus muscle.
Over the tendon is a bursa or small sack of fluid the purpose of which is to help lubricate the moving tendon. This bursa can become trapped in the shoulder causing pain and inflammation. The athlete is more prone to this injury if they overuse the shoulder particularly in sports where the arm is at or above shoulder level. Or if the athlete has previously had a rupture of the supraspinatus tendon.
What can the athlete do?
Rest until there is no pain. Rest is important as every time movement causes pain in the shoulder the time taken to recover will be longer as the bursa becomes inflamed and swollen.
If possible however continue pain free mobility exercises to keep the full range of movement in the shoulder. This is important to prevent loss of movement in the shoulder and eventually muscle weakness.
Apply cold therapy to reduce pain and inflammation. A cold pack or wrap can be applied every hour for 10 minutes reducing to 4 times a day as required.
See a sports injury specialist or doctor who can advise on subacromial bursitis treatment and rehabilitation.
What can a sports injury specialist or doctor do?
A doctor may rescribe anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen. This will help reduce pain and inflammation quite quickly although always consult a doctor before taking medication. Ibuprofen should not be taken if you have asthma.
They may prescribe a full rehabilitation program to include mobility and strengthening exercises. If Subacromial bursitis does not respond to normal conservative treatment of rest and cold therapy then a doctor may aspirate the bursa which involves extracting the extra fluid through a needle injected into the bursa. A surgeon may operate on persistent subacromial bursitis injuries.