Tendinitis, Impingement and Bursitis: Common Sources of Shoulder Pain

The shoulder is a complex joint made up of many muscles and tendons. So, it is no surprise that it is often a source of pain and discomfort for many people.

At Rebound, our team sees patients experiencing shoulder pain for a variety of reasons, whether they’re athletic, non-athletic, younger or older. Some of the most common sources of shoulder pain for our patients involve the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff can be problematic, contributing to conditions like:


  • Tendinitis
  • Shoulder impingement
  • Bursitis

Learn how to spot the symptoms and what treatments are available for these common sources of shoulder pain from one of our board-certified shoulder surgeons, Dr. Anthony Wei.

Spot the Symptoms

“As with many conditions affecting the muscles and joints, the earlier you are able to identify the symptoms the better,” says Dr. Wei.

When these conditions are neglected, the pain may become severe and your shoulder’s mobility and function may decrease. The pain you experience from tendinitis, shoulder impingement or bursitis may be very mild initially. With time and/or overhead activity, your symptoms may worsen to include nighttime pain and loss of motion.

Common Symptoms:

  • Difficulty with everyday activities that involve lifting or reaching
  • Pain and stiffness in your shoulder/arm
  • Radiating pain from the shoulder to the arm
  • Shoulder swelling
  • Tenderness

What Causes Rotator Cuff Tendonitis, Shoulder Impingement and Bursitis?

These conditions are closely related and may occur in association with each other. Most often these conditions develop from overuse or repetitive overhead movement.

  • Tendinitis occurs when the rotator cuff tendons become irritated, damaged or worn down.
  • Bursitis occurs when the bursae (small, fluid-filled sacs that act as cushions between bones and tissues in the shoulder) become inflamed and swell.
  • Impingement occurs when the top of the shoulder blade presses or rubs against the tendons and bursa. When this happens, the space between the shoulder blade and rotator cuff narrows. Severe impingement may cause a rotator cuff tear.

Athletes who partake in sports that involve the repetitive use of the shoulder or overhead reaching are more susceptible to rotator cuff tendinitis, shoulder impingement and bursitis (swimmers, tennis players, basketball players, baseball players, shot put throwers, etc.). However, these problems can also occur without participating in athletic activities.

“Age can also be a factor, as our muscles and tendons can be worn down or weakened with age,” says Dr. Wei. “These problems can occur over time, particularly if you have a profession that requires repetitive lifting or movement that places strain on your shoulders.”

Treatment Options

“In most instances, we suggest non-surgical treatment for these conditions,” says Dr. Wei. “With proper rest, anti-inflammatories and patience, many patients are able to recover functionality of their shoulder without surgery. Our physical therapists can also design exercise programs and work with patients on shoulder exercises to aid the recovery process. ”

These physical therapy exercises will focus on your shoulder’s range of motion and strength. Strengthening the shoulder will help prevent future injuries and reduce pain.

Should initial non-surgical treatments not work, or if your condition is severe, one of our physicians may suggest surgery (arthroscopic or open surgery).

If you’re experiencing symptoms of rotator cuff tendinitis, shoulder impingement or bursitis, do not hesitate to visit with our board-certified shoulder experts and skilled physical therapists.


Shoulder Resources:

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) – Shoulder Impingement/Rotator Cuff Tedinitis

AAOS – Arthroscopy

AAOS – Shoulder Pain and Common Shoulder Problems

American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine – Shoulder Impingement

Rebound Shoulder Resources:

Shoulder & Elbow Surgery

Shoulder Instability Causes & Treatments

Rotator Cuff Injury & Prevention