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Physical Therapy for Shoulder Bursitis

Physical Therapy for Shoulder Bursitis

The shoulder is one of the body's most complex and largest joints. Unfortunately, inflammation in this joint can cause pain and reduce mobility. Shoulder bursitis can cause acute pain, and without prompt treatment, it can lead to arm and shoulder weakness. Physical therapy can help manage this pain.

This article explores shoulder bursitis, including its symptoms and treatment, and how physical therapy exercises for shoulder bursitis.

Overview Of Shoulder Bursitis

The bursa is a small fluid-filled sac that lubricates and cushions the shoulder joints, reducing friction between the bones, tendons, and muscles. Shoulder bursitis occurs when the bursa gets inflamed. The primary causes of shoulder bursitis include repetitive motions, trauma, and underlying medical conditions.

Repetitive motions and overuse can cause inflammation of the bursa. Overhead movements like heavy lifting, throwing, and painting can all cause shoulder bursitis. Furthermore, if you experience a sudden impact or injury to your shoulder, it can damage your bursa, resulting in bursitis.

Another cause of shoulder bursitis is an underlying medical condition. For example, medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and gout increase the risk of developing inflammation in your bursa.

Besides underlying medical conditions, other risk factors for shoulder bursitis include age, posture, sports activities, and occupation. With age, the bursa becomes less efficient at reducing friction, increasing susceptibility to bursitis.

Furthermore, poor posture places additional stress on the shoulder joint, increasing the risk of bursitis. If your occupation involves repetitive shoulder movements or if you play sports that require excessive shoulder movements, you are likely to develop shoulder bursitis.

What Are The Symptoms Of Shoulder Bursitis?

You may have shoulder bursitis if you experience radiating pain down your arm when you lift or reach overhead. Usually, this pain is accompanied by shoulder weakness or stiffness. In addition, you may experience tenderness, swelling, pain, and a limited range of motion if you have shoulder bursitis.

Visiting a physical therapist to examine your symptoms and appropriate treatment is essential. Your physical therapist will review your medical history and may request imaging tests like X-rays to identify the underlying cause of your shoulder pain.

How Does Physical Therapy For Shoulder Bursitis Work?

Physical therapy for shoulder bursitis is a non-invasive approach to alleviating pain caused by this condition and improving strength. Physical therapists evaluate your condition and symptoms to create a tailored treatment plan that suits your needs.

Summit Physical Therapy program in Amityville, NY for shoulder bursitis may include exercises, manual therapy, ultrasound therapy, and electrical stimulation.

Manual Therapy

Manual therapy is a hands-on treatment for shoulder bursitis to relieve pain and tension in the bursa. Physical therapy for shoulder bursitis includes techniques like joint mobilization, soft tissue mobilization, and massage. These techniques target the soft tissues surrounding the shoulder to restore function and range of motion.

Ultrasound Therapy

Ultrasound therapy is another technique used during shoulder pain therapy in Merrick to alleviate pain from shoulder bursitis. This type of therapy is safe and non-invasive. It involves using high-frequency sound waves administered into the deep tissues of the shoulder joint. These waves then lead to an increase in temperature, promoting blood circulation and tissue healing.  

Heat And Cold Therapy

Heat and cold therapy relieve pain and reduce swelling and inflammation. Alternating between the two therapies alters the temperature of the affected shoulder area, providing therapeutic effects.

Heat therapy relaxes the muscles and increases blood flow. In contrast, cold therapy reduces inflammation and creates a numbing effect for pain relief. Depending on your pain and inflammation severity, your physical therapist in Merrick, NY, may recommend heat or cold therapy.

Your physical therapist may sometimes recommend alternating between heat and cold therapy, especially when you have acute flare-ups with significant swelling.  

Electrical Stimulation

Physical therapists also use electrical stimulation as a comprehensive treatment to alleviate shoulder pain. This modality involves the application of electrical impulses to the muscles surrounding the shoulders. The electrical impulses are safe, and they stimulate the muscles to promote pain relief.

Physical Therapy Exercises

Physical therapy exercises to help shoulder bursitis can improve your function and mobility. Your physical therapist will tailor the exercises to suit your needs and show you how to do them. The exercises for shoulder bursitis may include range of motion exercises, strengthening exercises, and stretching exercises to improve your posture. Doing the exercises will help you regain strength and mobility in no time.

Range Of Motion Exercises

Range of motion (ROM) exercises aim to improve your flexibility and joint mobility. Pendulum and arm circles are popular ROM exercises for shoulder bursitis.


  • Stand with your unaffected hand resting for support on a chair or table.
  • Lean forward and allow your affected arm to hang freely.
  • Swing your arm gently in small circles back and forth and from side to side.
  • Perform the exercise for 5-10 minutes.

Arm circles

  • Extend your arms to the sides.
  • Make small circles with your palm facing down.
  • Gradually increase the size of the circles.

Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening exercises improve the shoulder muscles' stability, function, and overall strength. Popular strengthening exercises for shoulder bursitis include internal and external rotation.

External rotation

  • Attach a resistance band to a secure object. You can use a doorknob.
  • Stand and bend your affected arm at a 90-degree angle. Ensure you tuck your elbow to your side.
  • Rotate your forearm outward against the band's resistance.

Internal rotation

  • Attach a resistance band to a secure object. You can use a doorknob.
  • Stand and bend your affected arm at a 90-degree angle. Ensure you tuck your elbow to your side.
  • Rotate your forearm inward against the band's resistance.

Stretching Exercises

Shoulder stretches improve mobility and flexibility and prevent injuries. Stretching exercises to help shoulder bursitis include overhead reach and cross-body shoulder stretch.

Overhead reach

  • Reach one arm overhead.
  • Gently bend it at the elbow.
  • Allow your hand to touch the opposite shoulder blade.
  • Hold for about 30 seconds.
  • Repeat for the other hand.

Cross-body shoulder stretch

  • Bring your affected arm across your chest.
  • Pull the arm closer to your body using your unaffected arm.
  • Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds.
  • Repeat several times.

Postural Exercises

Postural exercises improve your posture, preventing stress on the shoulder joints. These exercises also improve alignment, decrease pain, and prevent future issues. Shoulder blade squeezes and chin tucks are postural shoulder bursitis treatment exercises.

Shoulder blade squeezes

  • Stand or sit and relax your arms at your sides.
  • Gently squeeze your shoulder blades together. Avoid shrugging your shoulders.
  • Hold the squeeze for a few seconds and release.
  • Repeat the exercise and maintain a good posture throughout.

Chin tucks

  • Sit or stand with your spine straight. Relax your shoulders.
  • Retract your chin gently and pull it straight back. Avoid tilting your head up or down.
  • Hold the position for a few seconds. You should feel a slight stretch in the back of your neck.
  • Repeat the exercise to reduce the forward head position.

How Long Is Recovery For Shoulder Bursitis?

The length of recovery after shoulder therapy in Merrick depends on the severity of the pain and the underlying cause. For example, you should experience pain relief in a few sessions if the cause of bursitis is physical injury. However, if it is due to muscle overuse, you may take several weeks to heal.

If your shoulder bursitis results from an underlying medical condition, it may take longer to heal. Nevertheless, regardless of the cause of your pain, your physical therapist in Merrick will work with you to promote healing and long-term pain relief.

How To Prevent Shoulder Bursitis

Besides age and underlying medical conditions, the risk factors for shoulder bursitis include posture, occupation, and sports activities. Therefore, preventing this condition is possible. You can prevent shoulder bursitis by maintaining a good posture, exercising regularly, and improving ergonomics in your work environment.

Good Posture

When sitting or standing, your shoulders should be relaxed. You should also avoid slouching or hunching forward. Poor posture stresses the shoulder joint and may lead to bursa inflammation.

Regular Exercise

Regular strengthening exercises for your shoulder muscles are essential to prevent shoulder bursitis. However, before starting any exercise, always warm up to prepare your shoulder joint and muscles for activity and to reduce the risk of injury.

Proper Lifting

Improper lifting can strain your shoulders and cause shoulder bursitis. When lifting heavy objects, use proper lifting techniques. For example, lifting with your legs instead of your back is ideal. In addition, avoid lifting objects that are too heavy for you.

Limit Repetitive Movements

Repetitive movements are a primary cause of shoulder bursitis. Therefore, avoiding hobbies, sports, or work involving repetitive shoulder motions is best. However, if you must, take regular breaks to rest the joints and prevent overuse. You can also vary your activities to avoid repetitive stress on the same muscle groups.

Practice Ergonomics

Ensure that your work environment is ergonomically designed to prevent shoulder strain. For example, if you work at a desk, adjust your computer setup, desk, and chair for proper alignment. Furthermore, it is ideal to take breaks throughout the day and do a couple of stretches to strengthen your shoulder muscles.


Physical therapy is essential in managing and treating shoulder bursitis. Your physical therapist at Summit Physical Therapy in Merrick will work closely with you to evaluate your symptoms and create a customized treatment plan for pain relief. Nevertheless, follow preventive measures to prevent a recurrence after treating shoulder bursitis. Your physical therapist in Merrick, NY, will help you on your rehabilitation journey and advise you on the best practices for preventing shoulder bursitis.

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