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Shoulder Arthritis

Shoulder arthritis is a condition characterized by the degeneration of the glenohumeral joint, the main shoulder joint. It can also affect the acromioclavicular joint, a small joint that connects the collarbone to the shoulder blade. Arthritis leads to pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion and can significantly impact quality of life. There are several types of shoulder arthritis, with the most common being osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and post-traumatic arthritis.

There are several types of shoulder arthritis, with the most common being osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and post-traumatic arthritis.

  • Osteoarthritis (OA), often referred to as “wear-and-tear” arthritis, is the most common form of arthritis in the shoulder. It typically occurs in individuals over the age of 50 and is characterized by the gradual breakdown of cartilage, the smooth covering at the ends of bones that enables joints to move smoothly. As this cartilage wears away, it results in bone-on-bone contact within the joint, causing pain and limiting movement. Risk factors for OA include age, genetics, previous injuries or surgeries, and repetitive use of the joint. Osteoarthritis can also develop after a trauma to the shoulder joint such as a fracture or dislocation, regardless of age. These injuries can damage the cartilage or the bone, altering the mechanics of the joint and leading to arthritis over time.
  • Rotator cuff arthropathy is a specific form of shoulder arthritis that occurs in the context of a chronic and massive rotator cuff tear. When a significant rotator cuff tear is left untreated or is irreparable, it can alter the mechanics of the shoulder joint. Over time, this can lead to abnormal wear and tear of the joint surfaces, resulting in the development of osteoarthritis.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues, including the joints. In the shoulder, RA leads to inflammation of the joint lining (synovium), causing pain, swelling, and stiffness.

Common symptoms of shoulder arthritis include persistent pain, swelling, stiffness, and a decrease in range of motion. These symptoms can vary in intensity and may worsen over time. Patients often report increased pain with activities, especially those involving lifting, pushing, pulling or rotating the shoulder joint.

The diagnosis of shoulder arthritis involves a comprehensive evaluation, including a medical history review, physical examination, and imaging tests. Your Silicon Valley orthopedic surgeon will assess your shoulder range of motion, strength, and pain. They will order X-rays to visualize the extent of joint damage, and an MRI can provide detailed images of soft tissues, including cartilage. With this information, they will determine the diagnosis and discuss your treatment options.

There are several treatment options available for shoulder arthritis: nonsurgical management and surgery. Nonsurgical management is the first-line treatment for shoulder arthritis. It is aimed at relieving pain and inflammation, improving range of motion, and preventing further joint damage.

Nonsurgical treatment involves rest, activity modification, over the counter pain medications, moist heat, and icing to reduce pain and inflammation. In addition, bracing for support, and steroid injections can help to reduce pain and inflammation. Physical therapy to improve range of motion, strength and flexibility in the shoulder can help reduce pain and stiffness caused by arthritis. When nonsurgical treatment fails to relieve pain and improve function, a shoulder replacement may be recommended.

Schedule a shoulder consultation

Shoulder arthritis is a painful and debilitating condition, but there are many treatment options available to help relieve pain and improve joint function. At Silicon Valley Orthopedics we strive for compassionate, personalized care and treatment options geared to your needs. Contact Silicon Valley Orthopedics to schedule a consultation to learn more. We have offices in Fremont, Los Gatos and Menlo Park for your convenience.