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What You Need to Know About Shoulder Arthritis

Doctor checking patient shoulder pain

Shoulder arthritis often affects people over age 50, but it can also occur in younger people because of an injury. This painful condition often gets worse over time, but it can be treated in several different ways.

In this blog, the team of doctors at Specialty Orthopaedics in Harrison, NY explains what you need to know about shoulder arthritis:

What is shoulder arthritis?

Shoulder arthritis is inflammation of the shoulder joint that occurs when the cartilage that surrounds your joint becomes worn out. It can affect either or both of the two joints in your shoulder – the AC or acromioclavicular joint (where the collarbone meets the tip of the shoulder blade) and the glenohumeral joint (where the head of the humerus fits into the scapula).

Shoulder arthritis can typically be classified as one of the following 5 types:

  • Osteoarthritis – “wear-and-tear” arthritis that is common among people over age 50 and usually affects the AC joint
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – an autoimmune disease, meaning that the immune system attacks its own tissues.
  • Posttraumatic Arthritis – develops after an injury like a fracture or dislocation
  • Rotator Cuff Tear Arthropathy – can develop after a long-lasting rotator cuff tendon tear
  • Avascular Necrosis – occurs when the blood supply to the shoulder is disrupted, which causes destruction of the joint as well as arthritis

What symptoms does shoulder arthritis cause?

Shoulder arthritis usually causes the following symptoms:

  • Pain – can get worse with activity and also worsens over time, making sleep difficult. AC joint pain can radiate to the neck.
  • Limited range of motion – difficulty lifting your arm above your head for everyday tasks like brushing your hair
  • Sounds when you move your shoulder – such as a clicking or grinding noise

What treatments are available?

Non-surgical and surgical treatments are available to treat shoulder arthritis. Non-surgical treatments will probably be tried first. They include the following:

  • Resting your arm – You can rest your arm or change the way you perform some of your daily activities.
  • Physical therapy – Exercises can help improve your range of motion in some cases.
  • Heat or ice – Applying moist heat or ice to your shoulder can help ease the pain.
  • Medications – These can include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, corticosteroid injections or a medication such as methotrexate to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

If non-surgical treatments don’t provide enough relief, surgery could be necessary in some cases.

Common surgical options include the following:

  • Resection arthroplasty – This is the most common type of surgery that’s used to treat arthritis of the AC joint. It involves removing a small amount of bone from the end of the collarbone, with the empty space being filled in with scar tissue over time.
  • Arthroscopy – This surgery can be used to treat cases of mild glenohumeral arthritis. It utilizes a small camera that produces images to help the surgeon guide very small, thin surgical instruments. He or she can clean out the inside of the joint, which will help provide pain relief. If the arthritis in the joint continues, you may eventually need additional surgery.
  • Joint replacement surgery – If necessary, your surgeon can replace a damaged part of your shoulder with an artificial part.

If you have pain, shoulder instability, or a limited range of mobility in your shoulder, make an appointment with Specialty Orthopaedics of Harrison, NY by calling 914-686-0111 or visiting our Contact Us page. Our doctors have years of clinical experience and offer effective surgical and non-surgical shoulder arthritis treatments as well as shoulder instability treatment.

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