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Subacromial Bursitis and SSDI: Understanding the Connection

Subacromial bursitis is a painful condition that affects the shoulder, causing significant discomfort and limiting the range of motion. It occurs when the bursa, a small fluid-filled sac located beneath the acromion (part of the shoulder blade), becomes inflamed. This inflammation can result from repetitive movements, trauma, or underlying health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. For individuals suffering from severe subacromial bursitis, the pain and functional limitations can be debilitating, affecting their ability to work and perform daily activities. In such cases, applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) might be a viable option to receive financial support.

What is Subacromial Bursitis?

The shoulder joint is a complex structure that allows for a wide range of motion. The subacromial bursa acts as a cushion between the acromion and the rotator cuff tendons, reducing friction during shoulder movements. When this bursa becomes inflamed, it leads to subacromial bursitis, characterized by symptoms such as:

  • Sharp or aching pain in the shoulder, often worsening with overhead activities or at night.
  • Swelling and tenderness around the shoulder.
  • Reduced range of motion, making it difficult to lift the arm or perform certain tasks.
  • Weakness in the affected arm.

Causes and Risk Factors

Subacromial bursitis can develop due to various reasons, including:

  • Repetitive movements: Activities that involve repetitive overhead motions, such as painting, swimming, or lifting weights.
  • Trauma: A direct blow to the shoulder or a fall can cause acute inflammation.
  • Degenerative conditions: Age-related wear and tear, as well as conditions like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, can contribute to the development of bursitis.
  • Postural issues: Poor posture can alter the mechanics of the shoulder, increasing the risk of bursitis.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing subacromial bursitis involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI. Treatment typically focuses on relieving pain and reducing inflammation:

  • Rest and activity modification: Avoiding activities that exacerbate symptoms.
  • Ice and heat therapy: Applying ice packs to reduce swelling and heat to relax muscles.
  • Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help manage pain and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy: Exercises to improve range of motion, strengthen shoulder muscles, and correct posture.
  • Injections: Corticosteroid injections may be used to reduce severe inflammation.

In cases where conservative treatments fail to provide relief, surgical intervention may be considered.

Subacromial Bursitis and SSDI

For individuals whose subacromial bursitis is severe and unresponsive to treatment, the condition can significantly impact their ability to work. SSDI is a federal program designed to provide financial assistance to people who are unable to work due to a disabling condition. To qualify for SSDI with subacromial bursitis, the following criteria must be met:

  1. Medical Evidence: Comprehensive medical documentation, including records of diagnosis, treatment history, and the extent of functional limitations caused by bursitis.
  2. Duration of Disability: The condition must have lasted or be expected to last for at least 12 months.
  3. Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) Assessment: An evaluation of what work-related activities an individual can still perform despite their limitations. This includes the ability to lift, carry, reach, and handle objects.
  4. Inability to Perform Past Work: Demonstrating that the individual cannot perform any of their past relevant work due to the limitations imposed by the condition.
  5. Inability to Adjust to Other Work: Given the individual’s age, education, and work experience, it must be shown that they cannot adjust to any other type of work available in the national economy.
Subacromial Bursitis and SSDI: Understanding the Connection

Applying for SSDI

The application process for SSDI can be complex and lengthy. Here are some steps to guide through the process:

  • Gather Medical Records: Compile all relevant medical documents, including physician notes, imaging results, and treatment records.
  • Complete the SSDI Application: This can be done online at the Social Security Administration (SSA) website or by visiting a local SSA office.
  • Submit Supporting Documents: Include all medical evidence and any other documentation that supports the disability claim.
  • Consult a Disability Attorney: Consider seeking assistance from a disability attorney or advocate to navigate the application process and increase the chances of approval.


Subacromial bursitis, while often manageable with appropriate treatment, can become a disabling condition for some individuals. When it severely impacts one's ability to work, applying for SSDI may provide essential financial support. Understanding the requirements and gathering thorough medical evidence are crucial steps in securing disability benefits for those affected by this painful and limiting condition.

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