Shoulder Pain | Is it Frozen Shoulder or Shoulder Bursitis?

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Do you know someone who needs shoulder pain relief because they’re getting pain when lifting their arm and shoulder pain at night? Are you wondering: Is it frozen shoulder? Is it shoulder bursitis? Differentiating between these common conditions will help ensure the best treatment and prognosis.

What does frozen shoulder feel like?


People with a frozen shoulder diagnosis, will often feel:


  • No clear mechanism of injury
  • Pain wrap around the top of the shoulder
  • Difficulties in hanging out clothes, drying their hair, fastening their seat belt, getting dressed
  • Difficulty sleeping due to night pain, can’t find a comfortable position


Shoulder bursitis symptoms are:


Anterior/ lateral shoulder pain, i.e. front upper arm (deltoid), in general and when pressed

Sharp or pinching pain with overhead shoulder motions (past 90 degree of shoulder flexion and abduction)

Night pain, especially when lying on the affected side, but pain improved after modifying the sleeping position


Why do I have shoulder pain?


Frozen shoulder is more often reported in people with these risk factors, in addition to the frozen shoulder symptoms:


  • Prolonged immobility of the shoulder (e.g broken arm, shoulder dislocation), prior to the onset of symptoms
  • Systemic diseases like diabetes, thyroid issues and cardiovascular disease
  • Aged 40-60-year-old
  • Female patient

What is the difference between frozen shoulder and bursitis?


A physical examination including hands-on testing, strength and stretch testing, by a trained professional, like the Physiotherapists at Physio Inq Engadine and Physio Inq Sutherland,, will allow accurate diagnosis.


People with frozen shoulder will present with:

  • A global decrease in ALL shoulder range of motion, both actively and passively
  • External rotation and abduction are mostly restricted, followed by internal rotation and flexion, extension is relatively free
  • Weakness during shoulder manual muscle testing, mainly limited by pain instead of true muscle weakness 

People with shoulder bursitis will present with:

  • Restriction and pain mainly in shoulder flexion and abduction, may have painful arc of motion, usually between 70-120 degrees
  • Pain increases when shoulder is rotated inwards and forward flexed to above 90 degrees
  • Often presented with rotator cuff dysfunction as well, such as weak/painful external or internal rotation


Can Physiotherapy help shoulder pain?


Yes, seeing a Physiotherapist, such as the staff at Physio Inq Engadine and Physio Inq Sutherland, can assist with the relief of symptoms and long term treatment of conditions causing shoulder pain including:

  • Frozen shoulder, adhesive capsulitis
  • Shoulder bursitis, subacromial/subdeltoid
  • Rotator cuff dysfunction
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Ligament injuries and sprains
  • Labral tear
  • And more

What is the treatment for shoulder pain?


Gold standard treatment for the common conditions causing shoulder pain is physiotherapy management. Following expert testing and diagnosis, our Physiotherapists will recommend an individually tailored treatment program.


Frozen shoulder treatment


Research has found that physiotherapy intervention plus corticosteroid injection improves range of motion and functional limitations in the first three months. Physiotherapy intervention involves exercise therapy to improve/maintain shoulder range of motion, education regarding frozen shoulder, and manual therapy for symptoms relief.


Shoulder bursitis treatment


Treatment involves education regarding aggravating factors and its corresponding coping strategies. Since shoulder bursitis is often associated with rotator cuff dysfunction, exercise therapy to improve rotator muscle strength and control, and the coordination between the shoulder blade and humerus, will be essential.


Prognosis has been shown to be positively influenced with physiotherapy interventions.


Shoulder pain is a common issue treated by Physiotherapists. At Physio Inq, our Physiotherapists will be able to do a thorough testing and diagnosis, as well as provide gold standard treatment to help you live a life with less limits.

Contact us today to book your consultation.

Physio Inq Written on behalf of Physio Inq Engadine

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