Shoulder Bursitis

Miho Urisaka, PT, DPT, OCS Orthopedic Movement Physical Therapy
New York, New York


There is a small fluid-filled cushion at the top of the shoulder called the bursa which protects the rotator cuff muscles from rubbing on the bony acromion (found at the very edge of the shoulder).  Bursitis is an inflammation of this cushion that results in pain and swelling, typically worsened with overhead activities.  Shoulder bursitis can be caused by overuse of the arm such as in repetitive throwing, or from a trauma such as falling onto your hands.   Reducing inflammation is the key step in treating shoulder bursitis, which is why rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medication are commonly prescribed for this condition. What is less commonly addressed, is the reflexive, protective spasm found in the fascia surrounding veins, nerves and arteries, in addition to fascia found within muscles, ligaments and bone. Even the support tissues that anchor the heart and lungs to spinal vertebrae, ribs and sternum, can spasm and affect posture and mobility.  These protective reflexes are caused by injury or trauma to the body and are found in multiple tissue systems.

Fascial Counterstrain Treatment

A Fascial Counterstrain practitioner will assess each of the tissue systems to determine which system(s) is (are) the most involved and treat these in an order of worst first.  Treatment is very gentle and uses body positions, compression and tissue glides to shorten the tissue in spasm, which relaxes it and eliminates the spasm.   Applying Fascial Counterstrain to the lymphatic-venous and autonomic nervous systems can reduce excess fluid and drain out inflammatory chemicals, that cause pain, from the shoulder. Treating the arterial and nervous systems can increase blood flow to the affected region and improve strength in the shoulder girdle. The musculoskeletal and visceral systems, when treated, can also restore mobility and proper alignment to the bones and muscles of the shoulder joint and thoracic spine to ensure proper function of the arm and help prevent future injuries.

Patient Testimonial

“I was in a cycling accident in August and developed chronic pain in my shoulder and also my chest, ribs, and back.  I was unable to sleep most nights or would wake up with a shooting pain moving between my shoulder blades.  The pain in those areas was so great my general practitioner believed I pulled a muscle in my chest.  I was not allowed to exercise or exert myself at this point.  It wasn’t until January that I was diagnosed with shoulder bursitis and a separation of my AC joint.  After a week in a sling I was told I’d need physical therapy to resolve the issue.  It was almost 6 months after my accident that I came in to see Dr. Miho Urisaka.  Dr. Miho Urisaka was able to relieve pain in my upper back, chest, and ribs in only 2 sessions!  After being treated, I saw a massive increase in flexibility, strength, and dexterity.  In addition to relieving the pain, the treatment has allowed me to be more conscious of my body and its movement.” Blake C