Medical Library: Shoulder – Bursitis

Shoulder bursitis is the inflammation of an area of the shoulder joint that causes symptoms known as impingement syndrome. This occurs when there is inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons and the bursa that surrounds these tendons.

The shoulder is complex, with bones, muscles, and ligaments connecting the arm to the chest. Impingement syndrome refers to the inflammation that can occur between the top of the arm bone and the tip of the shoulder. The tendons of the rotator cuff and the bursa that protects these tendons are between these bones.

These tendons usually move effortlessly, but in some people this space becomes too narrow for normal motion, which leads to inflammation and ultimately to the thickening of the tendons and bursa, which in turn makes the problem of space worse. Eventually, this space becomes too constricted to accommodate the tendons and the bursa. As these structures struggle to move between the bones they are pinched, which is why the condition is called impingement syndrome.


  • Pain with overhead activities (arm above head height)
  • Pain while sleeping at night
  • Pain over the outside of the shoulder/upper arm