Arthritis of the Shoulder

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What is Arthritis of the Shoulder?

Arthritis is a condition that causes one or more joints to become inflamed, resulting in pain and stiffness in the afflicted joint. Shoulder arthritis, as the name suggests, impacts one of the two joints in the shoulder.

The shoulder consists of three bones: the humerus (upper arm), scapula (shoulder blade), and clavicle (collarbone). When a joint between these bones becomes subject to arthritis, it can be difficult or impossible to perform daily tasks like lifting your arm.

Who Does Arthritis of the Shoulder Affect?

Arthritis, although commonly associated with older patients, can impact people of all ages. There are five types of arthritis that can develop in the shoulder, each with its own unique risk factors.

Osteoarthritis (or “wear and tear” arthritis) is most commonly seen in those over the age of 50. Rheumatoid arthritis (or RA) is an autoimmune disease typically develops from a “trigger” event that activates the condition in those with certain genes.

Posttraumatic arthritis can impact anyone who has suffered an injury to the shoulder. The same goes for rotator cuff tear arthropathy. Finally, avascular necrosis (AVN) is often caused by other conditions like sickle cell disease, traumatic injury, or high dose steroid use.

What are the Symptoms of Shoulder Arthritis?

Shoulder arthritis symptoms are quite easy to identify and tend to arise gradually. The most common and obvious symptom of shoulder arthritis is pain in the shoulder. The location of the pain will vary depending on which of the two shoulder joints is being impacted.

Night pain is also common in those suffering from arthritis of the shoulder, causing difficulty sleeping. Shoulder arthritis can also reduce the range of motion in the shoulder, making it hard to move the arm and perform everyday tasks without pain.

Crepitus is another common symptom of shoulder arthritis. If you hear a clicking, snapping, or grinding sound as you are moving your shoulder, speak with a doctor about the possibility of shoulder arthritis.

How is Shoulder Arthritis Treated?

Shoulder arthritis treatment begins with a visit to your doctor for a physical examination. Your doctor will examine your shoulder for signs of past injuries, crepitus (as previously outlined), tenderness to touch, weakness in the muscles, and more. They will also analyze your pain levels and your range of motion.

Your doctor may also call for a series of tests to confirm your shoulder arthritis diagnosis. X-rays are the most common tests in these cases, as they can show any relevant changes in the bone or joint. Your doctor may also inject a local anesthetic into the joint. If your pain is relieved thanks to the anesthetic, then an arthritis diagnosis can be confirmed in most cases.

Most patients with shoulder arthritis can treat their conditions without surgery. Your doctor will likely recommend rest or a change in your activities to reduce the impact on your shoulder. Other treatment options include NSAID pain relievers, corticosteroid injections, and certain dietary supplements.

Shoulder arthritis treatment can also be supported with a physical therapy regimen. Exercises that you learn in physical therapy can help you to strengthen your shoulder muscles and regain a proper range of motion in the afflicted area.

Shoulder Arthritis Surgical Treatment Options

If nonsurgical treatment methods have not been successful in handling your shoulder arthritis, surgery may be recommended. Your doctor will explain all you should know before surgery, including the risks involved and any post-surgery instructions.

Some shoulder arthritis cases can see benefits from arthroscopy. This type of surgery involves the insertion of a small camera into the joint, allowing the orthopedic doctor to use small tools to clean the inside of the joint, helping to relieve your pain.

Arthroplasty, or shoulder joint replacement, may be recommended in more severe cases. During this procedure, part of the shoulder is removed and replaced with a prosthesis. There are three major types of arthroplasty for the shoulder: hemiarthroplasty, total shoulder arthroplasty, and reverse total shoulder arthroplasty. Your shoulder doctor can explain each option in detail and recommend a course of action based upon your specific case.

To learn more about Shoulder Arthritis treatment options in the Fort Myers, Estero and Naples area, contact Orthopedic Center of Florida.

Meet our Shoulder Doctors:

Mark E. Farmer, MD

Mark E. Farmer, MD

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Ed Gomez, MD

Ed Gomez, MD

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John N. Mehalik, MD

John N. Mehalik, MD

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