Shoulder Arthritis

What is Shoulder Arthritis?

Shoulder arthritis is a common condition that affects the shoulder joint. In a healthy shoulder, a firm, rubbery material, known as cartilage, covers the bones and allows them to slide smoothly within the joint. When a shoulder is affected by arthritis, this layer of cartilage breaks down and causes pain, swelling and reduced motion.

What Causes Shoulder Arthritis?

There are two joints in the shoulder which may be affected by arthritis. One joint is positioned where the clavicle meets the tip of the shoulder blade. This is called the acromioclavicular (AC) joint. The second joint is where the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) fits into the scapula. This is called the glenohumeral joint. Typically, shoulder arthritis is caused by a disintegration of cartilage in one or both of these joints.

The exact cause of arthritis is unknown; however, a number of factors are known to contribute to the condition. These include:
  • Being overweight
  • Getting older
  • Having a joint injury
  • Undertaking activities which place extra stress on the shoulder
Shoulder arthritis often develops slowly over several years, however, occasionally, it may also be the result of a joint that has not formed properly.

Shoulder Arthritis Symptoms

Shoulder arthritis symptoms include stiffness in the shoulder and either a sharp, stabbing pain, or a dull ache. Other symptoms include:
  • Swelling
  • A limited range of motion
  • A sensation of grinding within the joint.

A sensation of grinding within the joint.

In the early stages, shoulder arthritis may be treated with a range of non-surgical options. These include; activity modification, physiotherapy, anti-inflammatory medication, cortisone injections as joint supplements such as glucosamine.

Surgery for Shoulder Arthritis

If your shoulder pain is severely affecting your quality of life, your doctor may recommend that you talk to one of our orthopaedic surgeons about shoulder surgery. Most surgeries for shoulder arthritis aim to:
  • Relieve strong pain
  • Improve shoulder joint movement and flexibility
  • Help you move your shoulder more comfortably
The most common types of surgery for shoulder arthritis include:
  • Shoulder Arthroscopy: which involves keyhole surgery to remove damaged cartilage and repair tendons
  • Shoulder Replacement Surgery: in which the damaged part of the shoulder is removed and replaced with artificial components.