Shoulder Tendinitis and Bursitis

Shoulder tendinitis and bursitis are common causes of shoulder pain due to inflammation. Patients may experience both shoulder conditions at the same time or have one or the other.

Shoulder Anatomy

The shoulder consists of three bones, including the humerus (upper arm bone), the clavicle (collarbone), and the scapula (shoulder blade). The head of the humerus fits into the rounded socket of the scapula. This socket is called the glenoid. The rotator cuff, a combination of muscles and tendons, keeps the humeral head centered in the glenoid. The rotator cuff tendons cover the humeral head and attach it to the shoulder blade.


Tendons are cord-like tissues that connect muscle to bone. When a tendon is irritated or inflamed, it results in a painful condition called tendinitis. Shoulder tendinitis is typically caused by inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons (particularly the supraspinatus tendon) and the biceps tendon. 

Shoulder tendinitis can either be acute or chronic. Acute tendinitis is often the result of repetitive overhead activities during work or sport, leading to the sudden onset of inflammation of the tendon. Chronic tendinitis usually occurs as the result of degenerative diseases like arthritis or repetitive wear and tear due to age.


Bursitis is inflammation of the bursa. Bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs that are located in joints throughout the body, including the shoulder. They act as cushions between bones and the overlying soft tissues and help reduce friction between the gliding muscles and bone.

The subacromial bursa, which sits immediately above the rotator cuff, can become inflamed or swollen due to repetitive actions. This condition is called subacromial bursitis and can cause severe pain and dysfunction of the shoulder. It has symptoms very similar to a rotator cuff tear. In fact, bursitis frequently occurs along with rotator cuff tendinitis. Both conditions are painful and can limit the movement of the shoulder for daily activities where you need to raise your arm, such as when combing your hair or getting dressed.

Causes of Shoulder Tendinitis and Bursitis

The leading cause of shoulder tendinitis and bursitis is repetitive use or overuse of the tendons due to sports activities (e.g., pitching) or overhead work (e.g., assembly work, heavy lifting).

Symptoms of Shoulder Tendinitis and Bursitis

Common symptoms of shoulder tendinitis and bursitis include:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Trouble moving your shoulder to perform daily activities
  • Pain that doesn’t get better or get worse with physical therapy

Shoulder Tendinitis or Bursitis Diagnosis

During your consultation, your orthopedic surgeon will ask you questions about your medical history and conduct a thorough physical exam to determine the cause of your shoulder pain.

Medical History

Your doctor will ask you questions about your general health and any medications you may be taking. He’ll also ask you specific questions about your shoulder pain--when and how it started, if you had any shoulder pain in the past, and if so, if you have had any prior treatment for your condition.

Physical Examination

Your orthopedic surgeon will conduct a physical examination of your shoulder to determine the cause of your pain. He will check for tender areas, muscle weakness, physical abnormalities, swelling, and deformity. Your doctor will also test your range of motion and determine your strength to arrive at a diagnosis.

Shoulder Tendinitis and Bursitis Treatment

Your orthopedic surgeon will recommend treatment options that aim to reduce pain and inflammation, restore mobility, prevent disability, and avoid recurrence. 

Most patients respond to conservative treatment options, such as rest, activity modification, cold therapy, physical therapy, home exercises, medication, and cortisone injections.


In some situations, surgery may be indicated to treat shoulder tendinitis and bursitis. Specifically, shoulder arthroscopy may be recommended to smooth rough, inflamed tendon(s) or to remove inflamed bursal tissue.

Shoulder Tendinitis and Bursitis Treatment at OrthoMed Center

Our orthopedic surgeons at OrthoMed Center treat a full range of orthopedic conditions, including shoulder tendinitis and bursitis. If you suspect you have shoulder tendinitis or bursitis and your shoulder pain interferes with your normal day-to-day activities, please call OrthoMed Center at (209) 524-4438 to schedule a consultation. You may also request an appointment online.

1335 Coffee Road Suite #101
Modesto, CA 95355

Phone: (209) 524-4438

Monday through Friday
8:00 am - 5:00 pm

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OrthoMed Center aims to be the preferred provider of high-quality musculoskeletal care to the people of Modesto. We provide cutting-edge medical care while also ensuring we treat patients and their families with the utmost compassion as they find their way back to good health.
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