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Shoulder Bursitis: Common Symptoms and How Physical Therapy Can Help

by | Aug 30, 2017 | Neck Physical Therapy, Shoulder Injuries, Shoulder Physical Therapy | 2 comments

Shoulder bursitis affects individuals of all ages. While it’s common in elderly and middle-aged folks, it can develop in anyone with soft tissue imbalances where there is an excess of tissue tightness or laxity as well as in those with muscle weakness. While the condition has many causes, repetitive activities such as arm-twisting, throwing, overhead reaching etc. is a major one. Often, athletes develop shoulder bursitis after swimming, pitching, or throwing repetitively.

You can get the condition suddenly or gradually. It can also develop as a result of autoimmune diseases or arthritic bone spur formation.

One of the most effective treatments for shoulder bursitis is physical therapy. It’s efficient at reducing pain, stiffness, swelling, as well as at resolving the tightness and weakness in the upper back, neck, arm, and shoulder that are responsible for these symptoms. A reputable physical therapist can treat all these areas efficiently.

How physical therapy can help bursitis shoulder pain

A physical therapist works with you to come up with a specific program tailored to speed your recovery. The program features treatments and exercises that you can easily do at home. Physical therapy is handy at helping you resume your normal activities and lifestyle. While the time to heal varies between individuals, you can expect positive results in 2 – 8 weeks depending on the severity of the condition. To achieve optimal results, you must implement proper strengthening and stretching program.

During the first 24 – 48 hours after diagnosis, a physical therapist will advise you to:

  • Apply ice packs to affected area for 15 – 20 minutes after every few hours
  • Rest the affected area. You’ll be told to avoid doing any activities that cause pain
  • Consult your physician for further services like diagnostic tests or medication

A physical therapist works with you to do the following:

  1. Reduce swelling and pain

Are repetitive activities the cause for your shoulder bursitis? If yes, then a physical therapist will teach you how to modify or avoid particular activities to enable healing the process of healing.

  1. Improve motion

A therapist helps you choose certain treatments and activities to assist restore normal movement within your arms and shoulder.

  1. Improve endurance

Salvaging muscular endurance in your shoulder is crucial after an injury. The therapist with teach you how to enhance your muscular endurance so that you can resume your normal activities.

  1. Improve strength

The condition is related to uncoordinated, injured, or weak shoulder muscles. Your therapist will show you exercises that are efficient at healing every stage of recovery.

  1. Improve posture

If your condition is attributable to posture issues, the therapist will assist you improve the alignment of your torso, neck and shoulder blade thus alleviating your pain and preventing future recurrence related to poor alignment.

  1. Improve flexibility

A physical therapist has the skills to determine if any neck, chest, arm, or shoulder muscles are tight. He or she will help you stretch them and teach you exactly how to do it at home.

  1. Help you return to your normal activities

A physical therapist discusses with you your activity goals. He or she will help you attain all your goals related to work, sport, or even home-life recovery. The treatment program assists you to reach your goals in the most effective, fastest, and safest way possible.

Things to consider when looking for a physical therapist for bursitis shoulder pain

While all physical therapists are prepared effectively through experience and education, consider the following:

  • Settle for a board-certified physical therapist. He or she must have completed a fellowship or residency in sports or orthopedic physical therapy. The therapist must have advanced knowledge, skills and experienced that apply to your condition.
  • Choose a therapist that boasts a wealth of experience in treating individuals with musculoskeletal injuries. Some professionals practice with a focus in sports while others in orthopedics.

When it comes to addressing the cause of bursitis and the complications that result from it, the professionals at Buffalo Back and Neck Physical Therapy are second to none. Contact us to set up a consultation so that you can explore the wide variety of physical therapy treatment plans that we offer to our clients in the Western New York area. Our staff of experienced medical professionals have the ability to assess the source of your shoulder pain and to devise a physical therapy plan that works for you.


  1. Eda Tartamella

    Superior article. I have shared this upon my twitter and facebook.

    • Matt Smith

      Thanks! I’m glad that you found it helpful. Shoulder injuries are complex. 4 different people can complain of the same symptoms resulting from the same injury but each with a different area of weakness or tightness responsible for the problem. The treatment for each of these people will be very different. A good PT will help you identify your unique problem to achieve the most efficient recovery possible. Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions.


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