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Understanding Shoulder Bursitis: Symptoms, Self-Care Tips, and When to Seek Physiotherapy

Shoulder bursitis can be painful and limiting, but with the right approach, it is manageable. In this blog, we will explore shoulder bursitis, its symptoms, self-care tips, and when to seek physiotherapy.

What is Shoulder Bursitis?

Shoulder bursitis is an inflammation of the bursa, usually the subacromial bursa, a small sac filled with lubricating fluid between the shoulder's moving bones, muscles, and tendons. The bursa helps reduce friction and allows smooth movement. When inflamed, it can cause significant pain and restrict movement.

shoulder bursitis

Common Symptoms of Shoulder Bursitis

Identifying the symptoms early can help in managing shoulder bursitis effectively. Here are the common signs to watch for:

Pain and Tenderness: A sharp or aching pain in the shoulder, especially when moving the arm upwards and usually worse at around shoulder height.

Limited Range of Motion: Difficulty lifting the arm or rotating the shoulder, usually inwards.

Swelling: Visible swelling in the shoulder area may occur.

Redness and Warmth: The shoulder may feel warm to the touch and appear red.

Pain at Night: Increased discomfort when lying on the affected shoulder.

Tips for Self-Management and Self-Care

Managing shoulder bursitis at home can help alleviate symptoms and speed up recovery.

Here are some self-care tips:

  1. Rest: Avoid activities that exacerbate the pain. Give your shoulder time to heal.

  2. Ice Therapy: Apply ice packs to the affected area for 15-20 minutes several times daily to reduce swelling and pain.

  3. Pain Relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help manage pain and inflammation. Have a chat with your pharmacist.

  4. Gentle Exercises: Engage in gentle shoulder exercises to maintain mobility without straining the joint. Pendulum exercises and shoulder rolls can be beneficial as they are less likely to aggravate the bursa.

  5. Posture Correction: Maintain good posture to reduce stress on the shoulder. Avoid slouching and keep your shoulders back.

  6. Avoid Overhead Activities: Minimise activities that require lifting your arms overhead, which can aggravate the condition.

When to Seek Physiotherapy Treatment

While self-care is essential, there are times when professional help is needed. Consult an experienced physiotherapist who specialises in treating shoulders if you experience:

Persistent Pain: If the pain does not improve with self-care measures within a week.

Severe Pain and Swelling: Intense pain or swelling that limits your daily activities.

Weakness or Numbness: Weakness in the shoulder or arm or numbness that affects your ability to use your arm.

Recurring Symptoms: Repeated episodes of shoulder pain and swelling.

Physiotherapy Techniques for Shoulder Bursitis

Physiotherapy offers various techniques to manage shoulder bursitis effectively. Here are some of the methods we use here at the clinic.

Advice and Education

We provide valuable advice and education on:

  • Pain Management: Strategies to manage pain and reduce discomfort.

  • Posture: Techniques to maintain good posture and reduce strain on the shoulder.

  • Mobility and Load Management: Ways to maintain shoulder mobility and manage the load to prevent further injury.

  • Activity Pacing: Balancing activities to avoid overuse and allow for adequate rest.

  • Lifestyle Factors: Guidance on lifestyle changes that can support recovery.

Therapeutic Exercises

Therapeutic exercises are designed to:

  • Maintain and Improve Mobility: Gentle stretching and range-of-motion exercises.

  • Movement Control: Exercises to enhance shoulder movement control and stability.

  • Strength: Strengthening exercises to support the shoulder muscles.

  • Function: Functional exercises to improve daily activities.

  • Posture: Exercises to correct posture and prevent further strain.

Manual Therapy Techniques

Manual therapy involves hands-on techniques to:

  • Relieve Pain: Techniques such as soft tissue massage and joint mobilisations.

  • Improve Mobility: Manual stretching and mobilisation to enhance shoulder movement.

  • Facilitate Therapeutic Exercises: Preparing the shoulder for further exercise.

Medical Acupuncture and Dry Needling

These techniques can help:

  • Relieve Pain: Reducing pain through the release of natural pain-relieving chemicals.

  • Deactivate Myofascial Trigger Points: Targeting specific points to reduce muscle tension.

  • Decrease Muscle Tension: Relaxing muscles and alleviating tightness.


Electrotherapy includes methods like:

  • Low-Level Laser Therapy: Using laser light to reduce pain and promote healing.

  • Therapeutic Ultrasound: Utilising sound waves to relieve pain and accelerate tissue repair.

Shoulder bursitis can be managed effectively with the right combination of self-care and professional physiotherapy. Remember, early intervention is key to preventing long-term issues. If you are experiencing symptoms of shoulder bursitis, don’t hesitate to seek help from a qualified and experienced physiotherapist.

Contact us at Physiotherapy with LorraineCarroll and SimonCoghlan for expert care and personalised treatment plans. We specialise in treating musculoskeletal conditions, including shoulder bursitis, and are here to support you on your path to recovery.

Contact Us Today:

Your recovery is our priority. Let us help you get back to doing what you love, pain-free.

By Lorraine Carroll

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