What is Deltoid Bursitis?

Bursa is a medical term referring to fluid filled sacs most commonly found around different joints of the body. The function of these fluid filled sacs or the bursa is to protect the bones from knocking against each other. In other words they can be called as lubrication or cushioning between the bones of a joint. This causes increased flexibility of the joint and also reduces degeneration of the joint to some extent. Among the fluid filled sacs present around various joints, the subdeltoid bursa is located between the shoulder joint and the deltoid muscle.

The function of the subdeltoid bursa is to reduce friction between the bones of the shoulder and facilitate smooth motion of the shoulder joint. Sometimes, what happens is due to some reason this subdeltoid bursa becomes inflamed resulting in various symptoms like pain in shoulder and decreased mobility of the shoulder joint. This condition is what is called as Deltoid Bursitis.

What is Deltoid Bursitis?

What are the Causes of Deltoid Bursitis?

The most likely cause of Deltoid Bursitis is any kind of injury around the shoulder joint. This injury can be in any form like an injury sustained during any sporting activity like football or rugby. Repetitive stress to the shoulder joints may also result in Deltoid Bursitis as repetitive movements of the shoulder such as when lifting or moving heavy items repetitively can inflame the subdeltoid bursa and can result in Deltoid Bursitis.

Apart from injury or repetitive motions of the shoulder joint, certain medical conditions like gout or any infection to the shoulder joint post a surgery can also result in Deltoid Bursitis. People who are diabetic are also at an increased risk for Deltoid Bursitis. Deltoid Bursitis is more prevalent in the elderly population as their bones and ligaments are weak and any kind of stress to the joint can inflame the subdeltoid bursa resulting in Deltoid Bursitis. Obese people also put a lot of strain to the shoulders due to their weight which may result in inflammation of the subdeltoid bursa causing Deltoid Bursitis.

What are the Symptoms of Deltoid Bursitis?

The classic presenting feature of a Deltoid Bursitis is pain around the shoulder joint especially with movement of the joint. An individual with Deltoid Bursitis will also have difficulty in lifting the arm overhead or throwing something. An individual with Deltoid Bursitis will find it uncomfortable to put any weight on the joint. There will be increased stiffness of the shoulder. In some cases, the shoulder may look discolored due to Deltoid Bursitis. An individual with Deltoid Bursitis will also have reduced range of motion of the shoulder joint due to pain.

How is Deltoid Bursitis Diagnosed?

Diagnosing Deltoid Bursitis is done by the treating physician by just a thorough physical examination and taking the history of the patient. During history taking the physician will ask about the duration of the symptoms. The physician will then do a thorough physical examination of the shoulder joint by palpating it looking for any areas of tenderness and pain. The physician will also try to put the shoulder joint through range of motion and see if the patient has any pain. The physician may order an ultrasound of the shoulder joint which will give clinching evidence of a Deltoid Bursitis.

Apart from an ultrasound the physician may order radiological studies in the form of an x-ray, MRI or CT scan which may further prove the diagnosis of Deltoid Bursitis and also rule out other conditions that may be causing the patient the symptoms.

How is Deltoid Bursitis Treated?

How is Deltoid Bursitis Treated?

Since Deltoid Bursitis is mostly caused due to overuse and repetitive movements of the shoulder, it is important to identify as to whether there is any particular motion of the shoulder that causes an increase in the symptoms. If such a motion is identified then the patient is advised not to perform such motions for a few days till the inflammation resolves. Another treatment option for Deltoid Bursitis is to rest the affected shoulder to allow the bursa to calm down and heal. The physician will also give NSAIDs like Tylenol and ibuprofen for reducing pain and calming down inflammation associated with deltoid bursitis.

Once the inflammation has calmed down and the pain is controlled then the patient will be recommended certain exercises to get rid of the stiffness and strengthen the muscles around the shoulder joint so as to prevent the bursa from getting inflamed again. In case if Deltoid Bursitis is caused due to an infection then a course of antibiotics will be given to clear the infection up and treating Deltoid Bursitis.

What is the Prognosis & Recovery Period of Deltoid Bursitis?

In majority of cases of Deltoid Bursitis, patients can fully recover in a couple of weeks with adequate rest and exercise. In some cases, where Deltoid Bursitis has been present for a long period of time then the patient may require prolonged rehabilitation which may take upward of a couple of months before the patient can return to normal activities. In cases of infection causing Deltoid Bursitis, it may take about a month for the patient to recover from Deltoid Bursitis.

Exercises for Deltoid Bursitis

Below mentioned are some of the exercises that a patient can do for Deltoid Bursitis after the inflammation has calmed down and the pain is under much better control. It should be noted here that these exercises should be done under the supervision of a physical therapist and should not be done if there is an increase in pain or aggravation of symptoms. Some of the exercises for Deltoid Bursitis are:

Shoulder Blade Squeezes Exercise for Deltoid Bursitis: To do this exercise, sit or stand erect with the spine straight. Tuck in your chin slightly towards the chest and move the shoulders backwards a bit. Now gently squeeze the shoulder blades together as hard and as far as possible as long as it does not aggravate the symptoms do this for about 10 seconds and repeat it about 10 times a day 5 seconds.

Pendulum Exercises for Deltoid Bursitis: To do this exercise, start by leaning forwards with the unaffected hand supported on a table. Keeping the spine erect and the shoulder relaxed, gently swing the injured arm forwards and backwards as far as possible without aggravating the symptoms. Repeat the motion about 10 times and do it about three times a day.

Pendular Circle Exercise for Deltoid Bursitis: This exercise is similar to the pendulum exercise described above but in this exercise instead of swinging the injured arm sideways, you need to swing the arm in circles first in a clockwise direction and then in anti-clockwise direction without aggravating the symptoms. Do this exercise about 10 times and repeat it at least three times a day.

Foam Roller Stretch for Deltoid Bursitis: Place a foam roller under the upper back. Breathe normally keeping your back and neck relaxed. Maintain this position for about a minute as long as it does not aggravate the symptoms and do it at least two to three times day to make the injured shoulder more relaxed and less stiff for complete relief from Deltoid Bursitis.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: August 25, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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