3 Exercises to Help with Shoulder Bursitis
Shoulder Bursitis

Experiencing pain from shoulder bursitis? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, I recently got to share some insights about shoulder bursitis with the folks over at Bustle. They reached out to several experts in treating shoulder pain and asked them to share a few exercises and stretches to help decrease the pain associated with shoulder bursitis. They’re article ended up including 7 exercises in total. You can find that article here.


Below, I’ll share the original questions they asked for the article and my answers. Also, here’s a video I did on these 3 stretches:


What is shoulder bursitis? What causes it and what are some
main symptoms?


Bursitis simply means inflammation (itis) of the Bursae. The shoulder bursae is a small, fluid-filled sac in the shoulder that reduces friction between moving parts in the shoulder. The most commonly affected bursae is the subacromial bursae. When people say shoulder bursitis, that’s usually the one they’re talking about. This bursae reduces friction and protects the supraspinatus tendon (one of the 4 muscles of the rotator cuff). Acute bursitis in the shoulder typically results from overuse or repetitive shoulder movements.

Typically, these involve overhead movements. Symptoms typically include pain, swelling, reduced movement or motion, and weakness in the shoulder. Limited overhead movement results, either from pain or from stiffness. Some people experience a sharp, sudden pain with certain movements.


Please share an exercise that can help with shoulder bursitis


The first thing to do is make sure that it’s actually subacromial bursitis. Sometimes, the symptoms of bursitis are similar to certain rotator cuff injuries, periscapular dysfunctions, and other types of tendinitis. Once you’ve identified the issue as bursitis, then begin with a few simple exercises. The research tends to support stretches for bursitis of the shoulder in addition to periscapular strengthening exercises. Since this question is for stretches, I’ll share the two main bursitis stretches that I share with patients.

1) The posterior shoulder stretch

To do this stretch, 1) hold the elbow of the affected arm with your other hand 2) use that hand to pull the affected arm gently up and across the body so that you feel a stretch on the back of your shoulder 3) hold for up to 30 seconds 4) repeat 3-5 times 5) complete 1-3 times per day (I tend to tell people to do them at breakfast, lunch, and dinner)

2) Anterior Shoulder stretch:

To do this stretch: 1) start with  the hand of your affected arm near your back pocket 2) with your other hand, hold the affected arm (palm outward) behind your back by the wrist and gently pull the arm upwards until you feel the stretch 3) hold for up to 30 seconds 4) repeat 3-5 times. 5) complete 1-3 times per day (I tend to tell people to do them at breakfast, lunch, and dinner)

3) Bonus – Overhead Stretch:

To do this stretch: 1) laying on your back, use a weightless dowel (like a cane or section of PVC or broom handle) and grab ahold of it with both hands 2) keeping your elbows straight, slowly raise your arms over your head, your non-affected arm can do most of the work to lift the dowel overhead 3) hold for up to 30 seconds 4) repeat 3-5 times 5) complete 1-3 times per day (I tend to tell people to do them at breakfast, lunch, and dinner)

Shoulder Bursitis: Summary

As we often say in the clinic, there’s never one single thing that takes away shoulder pain, or any other pain. Shoulder bursitis, like most injuries and conditions, takes some time to heal and for pain to completely go away. However, one thing we do know from the research: movement is the best pain medication we have available to us. Stretches, exercises, and even normal activities like dressing and doing household chores can all help decrease pain. In fact, there’s some research out there that suggests people who injuries their back and spend a day or two in the bed resting and not moving are more likely to develop chronic pain. A person who experiences a back injury and continues to stay active (without over-doing it) has a lower chance of developing chronic back pain. So, if you experience shoulder pain, start moving! And, if you want guidance about what movements to do and which to avoid, schedule an appointment with a physical or occupational therapist near you.


Be sure to check out our resources and courses to learn more about pain, movement, and living an active, pain-free life!

Are you dealing with pain?

We understand that struggling with the stress and strain of pain can be tough…Whether it’s waking up feeling stiff or severe tension after walking, running, or playing, no one wants to spend each day dealing with the soreness that pain brings. While many people choose surgery or injections for pain relief, at ProActive Rehabilitation & Wellness, we offer non-surgical therapies which prevents patients from going under the knife.


If you’d like to book a pain consultation now, with one of our top clinicians, click the button bellow or have your provider fax over a referral. We only book a limited amount of these consultations each month, so act quickly before they’re gone.

Rafi Salazar OT

Rafael E. Salazar II, MHS, OTR/L (Rafi) is the CEO & President of Proactive Rehabilitation & Wellness, as well as the Principal Owner of Rehab U Practice Solutions and the host of The Better Outcomes Show. Rafi’s career trajectory includes 10+ years of experience in healthcare management, clinical operations, programmatic development, marketing & business development. He even spent some time as an Assistant Professor in a Graduate Program of Occupational Therapy and has served on numerous boards and regulatory committees. Today, Rafi helps innovative healthcare companies humanize healthcare through his consulting workHe also leverages his experience as a professor and academic to speak and train on the topics around humanizing the healthcare experience.

Rafi also authored the book Better Outcomes: A Guide to Humanizing Healthcare