Shoulder Arthritis

What is shoulder arthritis?

Shoulder arthritis is a common source of shoulder pain in patients older than 40 years of age. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, and is also known as degenerative joint disease. This is caused from normal “wear and tear” occurring gradually over time. Rheumatoid arthritis, which is an auto-immune disease where the body’s immune system attacks the joints can also cause shoulder arthritis.  

 

What are the signs of shoulder arthritis?

Patients often describe a gradual onset of “dull ache” pain in the joints and morning stiffness in the shoulder. In some patients, the stiffness in the shoulder gets worse and the patient notices decreased range of motion, and unable to lift the arm over their head.

 

What causes shoulder arthritis?

There are many factors which contribute to osteoarthritis including family history, injuries, and age. The joints in our bodies are made up of cartilage, which cushions and protects the end of the bones and allows for full range of motion. Over time, this protective cartilage can become thin and wear away. In some patients, the cartilage surface is worn out and there is “bone-on-bone” grinding at the joint, which can be painful. This “wear and tear” process can be increased after an injury such as after a large rotator cuff tear that goes untreated.

 

What are the treatment options?

Although there is no cure for arthritis, there are several treatments which can help reduce the symptoms. Simple things patients often try at home are gentle stretching, heating pad, exercises, and avoiding painful activities. There are many over-the-counter products which may help such as oral medications, dietary supplements, and ointments. Use of oral anti-inflammatory pills ( Ibuprofen, Naproxen, etc.) can reduce pain, and should be used sparingly due to side-effects. Dietary “arthritis supplements” containing glucosamine 1500 mg and chondroitin sulfate 1200 mg per day can reduce pain when taken for several months. Capsacin and anti-inflammatory creams can be purchased over-the-counter and applied to the skin over a painful joint. Corticosteroid injections (cortisone shots) can be used sparingly for a painful joint to reduce pain and swelling.

 

Is surgery needed?

Most people do not require surgery for arthritis. If patients have tried non-surgical treatment and still have troublesome pain, surgery might be recommended. Depending on the patient and the severity of arthritis in the shoulder, either arthroscopic debridement or joint replacement surgeries are options. Your physician at the Raleigh Hand to Shoulder Center can discuss these nonsurgical and surgical treatment options with you.  

Article by Dr Edwards III

 

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