Tendinitis vs Bursitis: Can Surgery Cure My Chronic Shoulder Pain?

Common But Painful Shoulder Injuries

Tendinitis and bursitis are inflammation of an area of the shoulder. Tendinitis refers to the swelling of the tendons, while bursitis is the swelling of the bursa. The bursa is a small sac that acts as protection. When tendinitis or bursitis occurs, extreme shoulder pain and stiffness are experienced. Surgery isn’t always necessary but can help in cases of chronic shoulder pain.

How does the injury happen?

Bursitis and tendonitis both occur from repetitive use of the shoulder or overstraining, causing shoulder pain. Tendinitis is commonly seen in athletes or people with certain occupations that require overhead work. Individuals with gout and blood or kidney diseases are prone to getting bursitis.

Managing the pain

The aim of treating tendinitis or bursitis is to restore the range of motion (ROM) and decrease pain. Initial treatments include rest, ice application, physical therapy (PT), and pain medication. Steroid injections are sometimes recommended if the shoulder pain is severe and persistent.

When is surgery necessary?

A healthcare provider will often recommend surgery if there is a tear of the rotator cuff or tendons, or when conservative treatments have failed. Surgery can repair any damaged structure or tear. If necessary, any inflamed bursa can be removed. The healthcare specialist will determine if surgery is required after carefully examining the shoulder.

The recovery period

Each person’s recovery rate is different. Right after surgery, try to limit overusing the recovered shoulder and take any prescribed medications as recommended. To strengthen the shoulder, PT should be started the first week after surgery. Under the guidance of a physical therapist, patients will perform exercises to regain muscle and range of movement. Achieving full recovery and getting back to normal will require patience and consistency. With proper dedication, the shoulder will recover and heal.

Preventing future injuries

To avoid chronic shoulder pain, try not to overstrain the shoulder. Limit or take breaks during repetitive or strenuous activities. Perform the activity appropriately to stay injury-free.

Curing chronic pain

Tendinitis or bursitis usually resolves with time, but the duration of recovery depends on the severity of the injury. Seek medical help if the shoulder pain interferes with daily life. Conservative treatments can help, but surgery may be necessary if a more serious or chronic shoulder injury is identified.


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