Re-Think OT

Western New York’s Occupational Therapy Resource

Shoulder Bursitis | Pain

Buffalo Occupational Therapy


Occupational Therapy | Buffalo NY | Buffalo OT

Michelle Eliason, MS, OTR/L, C.D.S., CKTS


What is shoulder bursitis?

A bursa is a small sac filled with fluid located near the tendons of major joints in our bodies (shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees). A bursa is used as a gliding surface to prevent friction between the tissues surrounding one’s joints, bursitis is when those small sacs become inflamedBursitis is typically caused from overuse, injury, or infection but can also be a secondary symptom of chronic ailments such as arthritis, gout, tendonitis, diabetes and thyroid disease (1). 

Bursitis can cause a range of discomfort and pain ranging from minimal to severe. It is important to contact your doctor if this pain and discomfort is limiting your from completing every day activities. If you are experiencing shoulder bursitis you may experience: 

  • Pain on the outside of your shoulder (internal and external)
  • Pain when you push against a surface
  • Pain when you lift your arm to the side
  • Pain when creating a circular pattern with your arm (2)


What meaningful activities (occupations) does shoulder bursitis affect?

  • Driving
  • Carrying children
  • Cleaning
  • Cooking
  • Performing job tasks
  • Shopping and bringing in groceries
  • Sleeping
  • Areas of self care (showering, grooming, dressing, etc)
  • So many more!!

How does an occupational therapists address shoulder bursitis?

Because occupational therapy is trained and educated to use physical rehabilitation methods to promote healing, occupational therapists can accept referrals for full treatment plans based on the occupation (meaningful activity) being effected. Occupational therapists will perform a full evaluation including occupational profile, pain, range of motion, and functional performance and use this information to develop a treatment plan. Occupational therapy is a holistic practice using meaningful activities to minimize pain, heal, and restore function so the interventions used will most likely include stretches and every day activities to maximize on the body’s natural movements to promote healing efficiency. If appropriate, your occupational therapists can use a range of modalities including kinesiology tape to help support the joint and decrease swelling without impeding movement as would a shoulder brace or splint.



Michelle Eliason, MS, OTR/L, C.D.S, CKTS  is both an occupational therapist and CARES Dementia Specialist. She has been an elder care professional for 7+ years. Working in various aspects of the elder care industry has given her a generalist skill set and a broad knowledge base of elder care approaches and resources. Michelle is passionate about influencing the elder care industry advocating against nursing home negligence and elder abuse, and working with older adults to enable them to live in their own homes throughout the aging process.

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