Shoulder Bursitis & The Importance Of Physical Therapy

left shoulder exam

Shoulder Bursitis: Causes, Symptoms, and Physical Therapy Exercises


Shoulder bursitis is a condition caused by the inflammation of the small fluid-filled sacs – bursae – that protect and cushion your shoulder joint. As a result, you may experience pain and difficulty when moving your shoulder. Athletes are commonly affected by inflamed bursa due to the repetitive motion and overuse of their shoulders. 

There are other causes of bursitis, including direct contact injuries, rheumatoid arthritis, and infection. If you experience symptoms of shoulder bursitis, it is important to seek medical attention. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent further damage and help you recover faster. 

What to Expect at Physical Therapy for Shoulder Bursitis? 

At the onset of physical therapy sessions, an evaluation of the affected shoulder’s range of motion, strength, and flexibility will be conducted. It is followed by a customized treatment plan that aims to reduce inflammation and restore appropriate movement. This unique regimen may consist of rotator cuff muscle strengthening exercises and stability-enhancing routines as well as stretching exercises intended to promote flexibility. The plan may also incorporate massage or ultrasound therapy to relieve pain and inflammation. 

What Types of Exercises Can Help Shoulder Bursitis? 

The exercises your physical therapist recommends will depend on the severity of your condition and how long it has been present. Some common exercises include: 

  • Shoulder rotations – rotating your shoulder joint helps improve your range of motion, flexibility, and muscle strength. 
  • Shoulder abduction – this exercise helps strengthen the muscles that support your shoulder joint. 
  • Scapular retraction and protraction – strengthening the muscles around your shoulder blades can help reduce pain and improve stability. 
  • Wall slides – using a wall to provide resistance helps you gain more control over your arm movements. 
  • Resistance band exercises – bands help you strengthen the muscles around your shoulder while also improving flexibility. 

These exercises can be done at home as part of a physical therapy program or in a clinic with guidance from a therapist. If done correctly, they can help reduce inflammation and improve overall shoulder function. 

How Long Does Recovery Take? 

The length of recovery depends on the severity of your injury and how long it has been present. Generally, most people with shoulder bursitis are able to find relief within a few weeks of physical therapy. For more serious cases, recovery may take several months or longer. 

How Does Physical Therapy Help Prevent Re-Injury? 

Physical therapy is an important part of recovery from shoulder pain. It can help improve flexibility, range of motion, and muscle strength. This helps reduce the risk of further injury because it improves overall stability and control. Additionally, your physical therapist will be able to provide guidance on proper form and technique for activities that may have caused or contributed to the injury in the first place. 


Physical therapy is an important part of recovery for many conditions, especially those involving inflammation. Physical therapists use a variety of exercises and techniques to help reduce pain and improve overall function. By following the guidance provided by your therapist, you can find relief from shoulder bursitis in a matter of weeks or months. Additionally, physical therapy helps to prevent re-injury by improving flexibility, range of motion, and muscle strength.