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April 09, 2018 4 min read

Exercising with Bursitis

The first time I suffered from bursitis, I was out on a long run and felt a small sac of water on the side of my left ankle. I was 26 and never had anything like that happen to me before. It was so tender that I could barely put on a pair of socks and shoes. I wasn’t able to run for 2 weeks and thanks to this regimen I was able to run again.

Bursitis is the inflammation of the body’s bursae. The bursae are sacs filled with synovial fluid, which are located in most places where there are friction points, such as muscles, tendons or bones. The primary purpose of these synovial sacs is to aid with the natural movement of the joints and reduce friction between them by providing sufficient lubrication.

There are many bursae throughout the human body. In fact, it is estimated that there are more than 150. Although bursitis can develop in all of the body’s many bursae, it is especially common in the joints of the shoulders, knees, hips, elbows, wrists, and ankles. These are the joints that are intricately tied to movement, and because of this fact, those areas are more susceptible.

In many cases, the causes of the disease are not entirely defined, but often the main cause of bursitis is the excessive use of a joint. Daily repetition of the same movement can cause a grinding that wears down the bursa and causes inflammation. Overextension of the joints such as that caused by injury can spur the development of bursitis. Athletes are exceptionally susceptible because of this. (Not that I am an athlete, but I love to run).

Tips for Exercising with Bursitis

  1. Stretch the area where you have the most discomfort for bursitis. For example, if you have shoulder bursitis or hip bursitis, these are really good stretches.  Shoulder pendulum stretch: You will need a lightweight that is around 3 pounds. Bend at the waist, so the arm that has bursitis dangles straight down and is perpendicular to the ground. Keeping the bursitis arm loose, gently move your arm in a circular motion while keeping your shoulder completely relaxed. Continue to do this for 2 minutes in a clockwise motion and then switch to a counterclockwise movement for another 2 minutes. Repeat until shoulder feels relaxed. Hip Bridges: This simple exercise will work miracles to ease the pain associated with hip bursitis. Get on your back and place your feet flat on the ground your only legs slightly bent. Slowly drive your weight down through your feet and elevate your hips. You should feel the strain on your glutes and lower back if done correctly. Gently lower back down to the starting position. Repeat 3-5 sets of 12-20 reps depending on your level of comfort.
  2. You can find a yoga class for beginners and hot yoga may be even better. The heat can help you loosen up the muscles to give you better stretches, and sweating helps you burn extra calories that are so difficult to shed when you are in pain.
  3. Water exercises can be a great way to get exercise while you have bursitis. However, I am a terrible swimmer and I think I was hurting myself more than helping. What did work was to gently walk in the water, twist from side to side, move water with hand paddles, and other exercises that might not look like much, but that with water resistance it really proved to be a workout.
  4. I bought better fitting shoes with extra cushioning. I currently use shoes that are classified as Neutral 5+. A good running store can help you get fitted for shoes that are good for your type of arch and amount of cushion on the shoe. They also put me on a treadmill that helped me see how I was stepping. Anything that causes you to strike harder than you need to will only aggravate your body. People that work on their feet all day should also look at getting fitted for shoes.
  5. Finally, I have gotten into the practice of applying the Workvie Pain Relief Therapy Cream every morning and after any extraneous workout. The cream contains Glucosamine, Chondroitin, MSM, and Eucalyptus which help with reducing inflammation and over time improve joint mobility. I massage into my ankles, knees, and lower back to keep me healthy both while I exercise and while I work.

Exercising with Bursitis is not easy, but it is possible.  You are stronger than your pain.

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Leave us a comment on your tips for Exercising with Bursitis.

This post is not intended to substitute the advice of a medical professional. Please consult a physician before starting any exercise routine. These are the expressed opinions and experiences of the author.


  • Joshi, Jayant. Essentials Of Orthopaedics & Applied Physiotherapy. Elsevier India, 1999.
  • Traycoff, R. B. “” Pseudotrochanteric bursitis”: the differential diagnosis of lateral hip pain.” The Journal of rheumatology12 (1991): 1810-1812.
  • Braman, Jonathan P., et al. “Shoulder impingement revisited: evolution of diagnostic understanding in orthopedic surgery and physical therapy.” Medical & biological engineering & computing3 (2014): 211-219.

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