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Ask Our Experts: How do you deal with severe bursitis pain in the shoulder?

Shoulder bursitis most commonly involves the subacromial bursa and is usually related to shoulder impingement of the bursa sac (fluid filled sac) between your rotator cuff tendons and the bone (acromion). Bursitis is typically described as localized pain and swelling and pain associated with overhead shoulder range of motion.

Initial self-management of bursitis symptoms should include:

  • Resting the joint and avoiding any repetitive motions especially motions that involve reaching overhead.
  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain medication is also great as a first line of defense to help manage the inflammation symptoms.
  • General neck and shoulder stretching may also be helpful to reduce the compressive forces around the shoulder which may be causing the inflammation.

Here are some exercises to try:

Doorway Pec Stretch at 60 Degrees Abduction:


  • Begin in a standing upright position in the center of a doorway.


  • With your elbows bent, place your hands on the sides of the doorway at roughly a 60 degree angle from your sides, then take a small step forward until your feel a stretch in the front of your shoulders.
  • Hold this position.


  • Make sure to maintain a gentle stretch and do not shrug your shoulders during the exercise.

Upper Trapezius Stretch:


  • Begin in a standing upright position.
  • Place one arm behind your back, and grab it just above the wrist with your other hand.


  • Gently bend your neck sideways, then pull your arm downward.
  • You should feel a stretch in your neck and upper back.


  • Make sure to keep your movements gentle and do not stretch through pain.

If bursitis symptoms are chronic or persistent, this typically indicates an underlying problem with shoulder mechanics and consultation with a doctor and possible physical therapy referral should be considered.

Angie Kramer is a Physical Therapist at Crossing Rivers Health.

Learn more about Crossing Rivers Health Physical Therapy.