Shoulder Bursitis Exercises to Reduce Pain

Shoulder bursitis exercisesShoulder bursitis exercises can be an important part of rehabilitation for those who are suffering from an inflamed shoulder bursa. The bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac, helps reduce friction in our shoulder spaces. When it becomes inflamed, you can experience a lot of pain.

We have several bursae in our shoulders. In most cases, it is the subacromial bursa that becomes inflamed, causing pain on the outside of the shoulder that can spread down the arm towards the wrist. Shoulder bursitis exercises can ease the pain but you must start them slowly and back off if and when you start to feel pain.

Exercises for Shoulder Bursitis


Your doctor will tell you when it’s safe to start exercises for shoulder bursitis. In the meantime, the following bursitis shoulder treatment exercises will give you a good sense of what could be part of your rehabilitation.

  • Posterior stretching exercise: For this exercise, you hold the elbow of your injured arm with your other hand. Pull the injured arm up and across your body so you feel a gentle stretch across the back of the shoulder. Hold for about 15 seconds then slowly lower the arm. Repeat this a few times.
  • Up-the-back stretch: You can’t perform this bursitis exercise until you have regained some range of motion. When ready, you put your hand in your back pocket and let it rest there to stretch your shoulder. Take your other hand and hold your injured arm behind your back by the wrist. Pull your arm up gently to stretch your shoulder. The next step is to take a towel and put it over your other shoulder. Put the hand of your injured arm behind your back and hold the back end of the towel. Now, with the other hand, hold the front of the towel in front of your body and pull gently on the front end of the towel. Your hand will travel farther up your back to stretch your shoulder.
  • Shoulder rotation: This exercise should be performed lying down. Take a PVC pipe or a broom handle with the broom portion removed. Lying down on your back, hold the wand with both hands, making sure both elbows are close to your body. Move the wand across your body toward the sore arm. Hold for about 10 seconds and repeat two to four times.
  • Shoulder blade squeeze: Stand with your arms at your sides and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Try not to raise your shoulders as you squeeze. Hold the squeeze for five to six seconds, release, and repeat up to 12 times.
  • Shoulder flexor and extensor: These are known as isometric exercises, which means you contract your muscles without really moving. A push forward flex requires you to stand facing a wall. Hold your injured arm against your body. Make a closed fist then gently push your hand forward into the wall with about 50 percent of your strength. Hold for a few seconds and repeat eight to 12 times.

A push backward extend calls for you to stand with your back flat against the wall. Your upper arm should be against the wall and your elbow bent to 90 degrees. Push your elbow against the wall with about 50 percent of your strength. Hold for a few seconds, relax, and repeat eight to 12 times.

  • Wall push-ups: Similar to the push forward flex, with this exercise, you stand facing a wall and place your hands on the wall at shoulder height. Slowly bend your elbows and bring your face to the wall. Push back to the starting position. Repeat up to 12 times.
  • Retraction: Using an elastic band (Thera-Band), put the band around a solid object about waist level. A bedpost is one example. Each hand should be holding an end of the band. Pull the band back so that your shoulder blades move toward each other and then move your arms back to the starting position. Repeat several times as long as you are not in any pain.
  • Internal rotator strengthening: This exercise also requires a Thera-Band. You tie the elastic to a doorknob and stand or sit with your shoulder relaxed. Hold one end of the band in the hand of the injured arm. Slowly rotate your forearm toward your body until it reaches your stomach. Now, slowly move it back to where you started. This should be performed with a rolled up towel between your elbow and your body for comfort.
  • External rotator strengthening: Similar to the internal rotator, this exercise involves holding one end of the elastic band with the injured arm and starting with your forearm across your stomach. You then slowly rotate the forearm out away from your body. Move your arm back to where you started and repeat.
  • Abduction: Using an elastic band, you hold one end and standing with your feet together, place the opposite end of the elastic band under your feet. Slowly lift the band until your arm is straight out to the side. Return the arm to the starting position and repeat.
  • Stick lifts: For this exercise, you take a stick or broom handle and standing upright, you hold the stick in both hands and slowly raise the stick over your head with your arms straight. Hold this pose for about five seconds and slowly lower the arms. Repeat up to 10 times.

Precautions While Performing Shoulder Bursitis Exercises

Exercises for shoulder bursitis can go a long way in speeding up your recovery; however, there are certain moves that you have to take extra precaution with. For instance, some people have difficulty reaching overhead. Exercises that require reaching overhead put more pressure on shoulder structures. If overhead is uncomfortable for you, stop and try an incline bench press. This involves lying down on a weight bench and holding light dumbbells in each hand. You simply press the weights straight out in front of you until the elbows are straight. Lateral raises, which require you to lift your arms straight out to your sides, can also pinch structures. You can substitute this type of exercise with bent-over shoulder raises.

We rotate our shoulders all the time. Getting dressed, washing our hair, and swinging a bat or golf club involves shoulder rotation. This can be painful for someone who has just been diagnosed with shoulder bursitis, so you may have to find other strengthening exercises until your shoulder is ready to handle the rotation.

While exercises can strengthen the shoulder and help improve range of motion, it is important to consult with a doctor or physiotherapist about bursitis shoulder treatment exercises before starting a routine. Each injury is slightly different and may need a customized approach.

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Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.


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