Shoulder Bursitis Exercises

What are some shoulder bursitis exercises?

Shoulder bursitis is a condition that can be incredibly painful for sufferers. So, what are some shoulder bursitis exercises? First, let's understand shoulder bursitis.

Caused by inflammation of one or more of the bursa in your shoulder, it is among the most common causes of pain and discomfort in this area.

Typically, it is a condition that presents itself with symptoms listed below:

  • Pain on the outside of the shoulder
  • Pain that radiates down your arm towards your elbow or wrist
  • Pain that worsens when lying on the affected shoulder
  • Pain that worsens when you raise your arm above your head
  • Pain felt when moving your arm up and outwards
  • Minimal pain when your arm is either by your side or raised above 90 degrees
  • Shoulder pain caused by activities including washing your hair and reaching up to take items off a shelf or out of a high cupboard

If you find that you are experiencing symptoms like these, you should visit your doctor, who will be able to prescribe you a course of treatment. Typically, this will include rehabilitation exercises.

Your physician or physiotherapist should provide you with a list of these, as well as letting you know which ones will work best for you and when you should start them. These are likely to include some or all of the movements explored below. We’ve outlined them for you in the hopes that you might find this advice beneficial.

Next, let's review some shoulder bursitis exercises.

List of shoulder bursitis exercises

Posterior stretching exercise

The exercise we’ll begin with is a very simple one. Start by cradling the elbow of your injured arm in the opposite hand, gently pulling the affected limb up and across your body. You should feel a gentle stretch across the back of the shoulder that’s damaged. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds before once again lowering your arm. Repeat the exercise two to four times.

Up the back stretch

The second stretch we will look at is one which doctors and physios often recommend continuing with until your full range of motion and strength is restored. There are three different ways to do it.

Firstly, begin by placing your hand in the back pocket of your jeans, leaving it to rest there so it gently stretches your shoulder. Maintain the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat the exercise two to four times.

Next, place your injured arm behind your back, palm facing outwards. Use your other arm to hold it, lightly pulling upwards to stretch your shoulder. Maintain and repeat as above.

Finally, progress to laying a towel over the unaffected shoulder. Placing your injured arm behind your back, use it to grasp the base of the towel, holding the opposite end in front of your body with your other hand as you gently pull downwards. This will raise your injured hand, thus stretching your shoulder. The position should be maintained for around half a minute and the exercise repeated up to four times.

Overhead stretch

Now for something a little different: the overhead stretch. You’ll need a solid surface to hold onto for this one, such as a countertop or chair back. Standing at arms’ length from this, take hold of it. Bend your knees slightly and lean forwards, with your arms straight out in front of you. Lower your upper body in order to allow your shoulder to stretch. As your injury recovers, try stretching a little more by standing a step or two further back to perform the exercise. Hold for around 30 seconds, before straightening and allowing your muscles to relax. Repeat three times.

Shoulder flexion

This next exercise will require you to lie down, and you’ll need either a piece of PVC pipe or a broom handle in order to complete it. This must be suitable for use as a ‘wand’ and should extend around 30 centimeters further than your shoulders.

Begin the exercise by reclining on your back, holding the wand in both of your hands with your palms facing downwards. Slowly raise your arms over your head, keeping your elbows straight as you do so. Lift them until you can feel your chest, shoulders, and upper back begin to stretch. Hold your position for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat two to four times.

Aside from the ones above, there are lots of other exercises that you can try, with your doctor or physio best placed to advise you on the most effective stretches for you. Take their advice, follow their directions, and your shoulder should be feeling better in no time.

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Last Reviewed:
September 03, 2017
Last Updated:
October 05, 2017