Shoulder Tendinitis & Bursitis

What is Shoulder Tendinitis & Bursitis?

Shoulder tendinitis and bursitis are painful and common conditions that inflame soft tissue around the muscles and bones:

  • Tendonitis happens in the tendons. Tendons are tough cords of tissue that connect muscles to bone, to the rotator cuff or the biceps. A rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that help your shoulder move and stay stable. The biceps help keep the upper arm bone stable in the shoulder socket. (Tissue is the material that helps support your body.)
  • Bursitis happens in the small, fluid-filled sacs (bursae) that cushion the bones, tendons, and muscles near joints. In the shoulder, they’re over the rotator cuff tendons.

Tendinitis and bursitis are usually caused by repetitive motions in jobs like gardening, carpentry, painting or sports like tennis and basketball. They can also be caused by a sudden injury. Other causes of tendinitis and bursitis include infection, arthritis, or diabetes.

What Are the Most Common Symptoms of Shoulder Tendinitis & Bursitis?

Pain and tenderness just outside the shoulder joint are the main symptoms of tendonitis and bursitis.

  • Rotator cuff tendinitis and bursitis cause pain:
    • When you lift your arm overhead.
    • On your upper, outer arm.
  • Biceps tendinitis causes pain:
    • In the front or side of the shoulder, which may go down to the elbow and forearm.
    • When the arm is raised overhead (sometimes).

Bursitis can also cause a frozen shoulder.

What Are the Treatments for Shoulder Tendinitis & Bursitis?

Treatment for tendinitis and bursitis focuses on relieving pain and reducing inflammation. Both conditions often get better with self-care within a few days to a few weeks.

Treatments include:

  • Rest to let the body heal.
  • Ice to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Pain medicines: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen:
    • NSAIDs like ibuprofen (e.g., Advil and Motrin) help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
    • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) relieves pain.

Other treatments include:

  • Physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the area.
  • Injection of steroids into the shoulder to relieve pain and increase function. But this can also weaken the shoulder tendons.
  • For bursitis: An antibiotic, If the inflammation is from an infection.
  • For tendonitis: Platelet-rich plasma (PRP). PRP treatment involves taking a sample of your blood and spinning the blood to separate out the platelets and healing factors. The solution is then re-injected into the irritated area.


If tendonitis or bursitis isn’t better after 6 to 12 months, surgery can repair damage and relieve pressure on the tendons or bursae. Surgeons can do some procedures using arthroscopy. Done through a few small incisions, this minimally-invasive surgery helps you heal faster and with less pain.

Surgery for bursitis is done to:

  • Drain an inflamed bursa.
  • Remove the bursa. This is rarely needed.

Surgery for tendonitis is done to:

  • Repairs the tendons. The surgeon can often do arthroscopic tendon repair.
  • Replace the torn tendon if it can’t be repaired.