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Shoulder Arthritis

What is arthritis?

Shoulder Arthritis

Normal Shoulder X-ray. Note good joint space between the humeral head and glenoid, and absence of bone spurs

Shoulder Arthritis

X-ray of an osteoarthritic shoulder.

Shoulder Arthritis

X-ray of a shoulder with rotator cuff tear arthropathy.

Arthritis is a degenerative condition that affects the cartilage lining of joints. Cartilage normally serves as a low-friction cushioning surface over the ends of bones. As arthritis progresses, this protective lining becomes damaged and eroded over time, eventually leading to painful exposed bone in advanced cases.

What causes arthritis?

Several types of arthritis may develop in the shoulder. Osteoarthritis is the most common variety. While some individuals are more genetically predisposed than others, osteoarthritis is also considered to be the result of environmental factors or “wear and tear”. Another type of arthritis – post-traumatic arthritis – develops after an injury to the joint such as a fracture or multiple shoulder dislocations. Finally, shoulder arthritis can develop in the setting of a large rotator cuff tear that goes untreated. This is called rotator cuff tear arthropathy.

What are the symptoms of shoulder arthritis?

Shoulder arthritis causes an aching pain felt in the shoulder region, and often extends toward the neck and into the upper arm. Some patients also experience stiffness and weakness in the shoulder. Occasional catching or clicking sensations emanating from the shoulder are common as well, as the rough, irregular joint surfaces rub along one another.

How is shoulder arthritis diagnosed?

Dr. Driscoll will discuss your symptoms with you and perform a thorough physical examination of your shoulder. X-rays are then used to confirm the diagnosis. Several examples of shoulder X-rays are provided on this page. These demonstrate the appearance of a normal shoulder (top), a shoulder with osteoarthrits (middle), and a shoulder with rotator cuff tear arthropathy (bottom).

What is the treatment for shoulder arthritis?

Similar to arthritis in other joints such as the hip or knee, treatment for arthritis in the shoulder includes several options such as activity modification, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, injections into the joint, and surgery. When non-surgical treatments fail to provide adequate pain relief and functional improvement, the most reliable surgical solution for shoulder arthritis is shoulder replacement surgery.