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Exercises for Bursitis in the Shoulder

author image Lori Newell
I hold a Master's degree in exercise physiology/health promotion. I am a certified fitness specialist through the American College of Spots Medicine and an IYT certified yoga teacher. I have over 25 years experience teaching classes to both general public and those with chronic illness. The above allows me to write directly to the reader based on personal experiences.
Exercises for Bursitis in the Shoulder
Stretching exercises can help shoulder bursitis heal. Photo Credit One arm stretch as part of a Thai body massage. image by Deborah Benbrook from <a href="http://www.fotolia.com">Fotolia.com</a>

The joints of the body such as the shoulder contain fluid-filled sacs called bursa that help to reduce friction. An irritation or inflammation of these sacs is called bursitis. Shoulder bursitis, sometimes called impingement syndrome, can cause pain, swelling and a loss of range of motion. It is important to perform certain exercises to heal and prevent bursitis of the shoulder. Exercises need to be combined with ice, rest and any other treatments suggested by a physician.

Wall Push-ups

The first step in treatment for shoulder bursitis is to rest the shoulder and avoid movements that cause pain, states the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Range of motion exercises should be started once a physicians deems it is safe to do so. This is important to help prevent shoulder bursitis from progressing to a frozen shoulder. Shoulder rolls and shoulder shrugs are good exercises to start with. Move slowly and make the movements as large as possible without causing pain. If bearing weight on the shoulder is possible, try wall push-ups.

Stand a few feet away from the wall and place the palms flat at shoulder-height and shoulder-width apart. Slowly lower the upper body towards the wall without dropping the hips forward. Then push back up. Go slowly and repeat for eight to 12 repetitions. As this gets easier, push-ups with the hands on a chair and then eventually on the floor can make this exercise harder.

Yoga Towel Stretch

This exercise can help to improve range of motion in the shoulder joint.

Sit up straight in a chair or on the floor. Start by resting the towel on the lap with the palms facing down. Lift the arms up and continue overhead and back behind the body as far as possible. Then come back up overhead and back to the lap. Repeat eight to 12 times.

Deltoid Raises

After an initial period of rest, it is important to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder joint to help regain strength and prevent future injuries.

Perform deltoid raises by sitting up straight in a chair and letting the arms hang down by the sides with the palms facing the body. Light weights can be used as long as there is no pain. Lift the arms up to shoulder height. The palms should be facing the floor. Lower the arms slowly. Repeat for eight to 12 repetitions.

Military Press

Sit up straight in a chair. Lift the arms straight up overhead with the palms facing forward. Do not lock the elbows. Bring the arms down just until the hands are at shoulder-height. Repeat for eight to 12 repetitions. This exercise can be done with or without weights. If not using weights, focus on tightening the shoulder muscles each time the arms lift up. If it is hard to straighten the affected shoulder, try this exercise while holding a broomstick so the non-injured arm can assist.

Shoulder Flexion

Along with range of motion and strengthening exercises, it is also important to stretch the shoulder muscles. The shoulder flexion stretch will help to loosen the muscles of the shoulders and upper back.

Lie flat on the floor on the back. Bend the knees and place the feet flat on the floor. Lift the arms straight up towards the ceiling with the palms facing each other. Keep the lower back in contact with the floor and lower both arms overhead and towards the floor as far as possible without arching the back. The elbows should pass close to the ears. Hold for a slow 30-second count. Focus on relaxing the shoulders with each exhale. Then slowly release. To deepen the stretch, try holding an exercise ball or light weight. If range of motion is limited, clasp the hands so the strong arm can help the injured shoulder stretch farther.

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