Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Subacromial Bursitis Anatomy

To better understand shoulder bursitis, it helps to understand the anatomy of the shoulder joint.

A bursa is a small sac that is filled with very slippery fluid. The bursa acts as a lubricating pad between a tendon and bone. This prevents destruction of the tendon as it moves over a bone.

The shoulder joint allows motion between two major bones: the humerus (arm bone) and the scapula (shoulder blade). The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint. A depression in the scapula, known as the glenoid, provides the socket for the head of the humerus. Ligaments and muscles hold the joint together as the bones move.

The clavicle, or collar bone, connects to the scapula at the acromion, which is a bony projection off the scapula. The acromioclavicular ligaments normally surround and secure this joint.

Anatomy examples:

  • The shoulder joint viewed from the front
  • The shoulder joint viewed from the back
  • The shoulder joint viewed from the top, showing rotator cuff
  • Muscles of the shoulder from the front
  • Muscles of the shoulder from the back
  • The acromioclavicular joint

Last Updated: Nov 1, 2008 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Subacromial Bursitis References
  1. Gutierrez G, Burroughs M, Poddar S. Clinical inquiries. Does injection of steroids and lidocaine in the shoulder relieve bursitis? J Fam Pract. 2004 Jun;53(6):488-92. [15189724]
  2. Hanchard NC, Howe TE, Gilbert MM. Diagnosis of shoulder pain by history and selective tissue tension: agreement between assessors. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2005 Mar;35(3):147-53. [15839308]
  3. Ishii H, Brunet JA, Welsh RP, Uhthoff HK. Bursal reactions in rotator cuff tearing, the impingement syndrome, and calcifying tendinitis. J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 1997 Mar-Apr;6(2):131-6. [9144600]
  4. LeNoir JL. Subacromial-subdeltoid bursitis of the shoulder. Orthop Rev. 1986 Nov;15(11):730-2. [3453917]
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