Subacromial Bursitis

Subacromial bursitis symptoms are similar to supraspinatus tendinitis. The patient experiences pain in the shoulder when they lift their arm over a 60-degree arcSubacromial Bursitis, TPL Orthopedics and Sports Medicine sideways. The subacromial bursa refers to a fluid sack over the tendon which enables motion.

When the patient performs certain activities, especially sports where the arm is routinely at or over shoulder level (gymnasts, pitchers in baseball), this can become trapped. Taking a break from such activities helps reduce the pain. After the patient is free of pain, they can commence rehab exercises.

Thomas & Bigler Knee & Shoulder Institute, led by judicious board certified orthopedic surgeons Dr. Steven C. Thomas and Dr. Gregory T. Bigler, provides orthopedic surgery to patients in Las Vegas, Nevada and surrounding communities in this part of southeast Nevada.


Subacromial bursitis symptoms may be similar to symptoms of supraspinatus inflammation or shoulder injury. The patient will experience pain and weakness in the arm, especially when they lift it sideways through a 60-degree arc.

They may also feel pain when this pressure is exerted at the inside front of the upper arm. In case the tendon is damaged instead of the bursa, the patient will find it more painful when lifting the arm sideways against resistance.


In cases of subacromial bursitis, what can a sports injury specialist or doctor prescribe?

A physician may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen. This will lead to a reduction in pain and swelling rapidly. But patients should consult a physician before taking any medicine. Asthmatic patients should not take ibuprofen.

The doctor may prescribe a complete rehabilitation program for the patient which will include strengthening and mobility exercises.  The physician may need to aspirate the bursa (extracting excess fluid using a needle injected into the bursa) in cases the condition is unresponsive to routine conservative treatment of rest and cold therapy.

In case of persistent subacromial bursitis injuries, the treatment provider may need to perform a surgical procedure. Subacromial bursitis rehabilitation involves decreasing swelling, enhancing mobility, and restoring strength.

Rehabilitation Program

Subacromial bursitis rehabilitation aims to decrease pain and swelling, enhance or maintain mobility, provide strength to the shoulder via exercises and slowly restore full function and fitness in the shoulder.

Stage 1: Reduction in Pain and Swelling

  • Application of ice or cold therapy to the shoulder which will help in pain and swelling reduction.
  • Provide the shoulder rest and not undertake any movements that cause pain.
  • In the initial stages, NSAID or anti-inflammatory meds such as ibuprofen may help.

Stage 2: Re-establishing the range of movement and strength (typically five to seven days following the injury)

  • The range of motion is re-established via shoulder mobility exercises which slowly increase the range of motion of the joint. The patient will perform specific stretching exercise to stretch the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint.

Stage 3: To help the athlete resume competition or specific training

The rehab exercises have to be customized to the sport the athlete undertakes. For instance, pitchers would commence treatment by throwing a tennis ball against a wall. The athlete (yes, pitchers are athletes) will perform five sets of 20 throws. The number of sets and repetitions will be increased slowly if they do not feel any pain during, after or the following day.

Committed board certified orthopedic surgeons Dr. Thomas and Dr. Bigler receive patients from Las Vegas, Nevada and nearby areas in The Battle Born State for orthopedic surgery.

If you would like to schedule an appointment or learn more about the Knee and Shoulder Institute procedures & treatments performed by Las Vegas, Nevada board-certified surgeons Steven C. Thomas, MD and Gregory T. Bigler, MD. Contact the office today click here.

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