More than 50 million people in the U.S. have some type of arthritis, which can affect joints such as the shoulder.
In this blog, orthopedic shoulder surgeon Dr. Francis X. Mendoza provides information to guide you in determining whether your shoulder arthritis warrants treatment.
What is shoulder arthritis?
Shoulder arthritis is inflammation of one or more shoulder joints. The acromioclavicular (AC) joint is located where the collarbone (clavicle) meets the top of the shoulder blade (acromion). The glenohumeral joint is located where the upper arm bone (humerus) fits into the shoulder blade (scapula).
What are the symptoms of shoulder arthritis?
The following are some of the most common symptoms:
Pain – This is the main symptom of shoulder arthritis. Your shoulder may hurt even when you’re sleeping, and the pain may get worse while you’re moving it and after you move it. The pain can be concentrated in the back or front of the shoulder, depending on which joint is affected
Limited range of motion – You may find it difficult to perform everyday tasks such as brushing your hair or reaching for something in a cabinet.
Sounds caused by movement – Your shoulder may develop a clicking, creaking, or snapping sound when you try to move it.
What are the causes of shoulder arthritis?
Several different types of arthritis can affect the shoulder:
Osteoarthritis – This type of arthritis is also known as degenerative joint disease. It causes the cartilage that covers the top of bones to wear down over time and can frequently affect the AC joint. It may cause bone spurs (outgrowths of bone along their edges) to develop. It most often affects people older than 50.
Rheumatoid arthritis – Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that causes your immune system to attack tissue such as cartilage and ligaments and also softens bone. It usually affects the same joint on both sides of the body. It can affect people of any age and causes the lining of the joint to swell, which causes pain and stiffness.
Posttraumatic arthritis – This type of osteoarthritis is caused by an injury to the shoulder. Injuries such as a broken bone or torn ligament can lead to posttraumatic arthritis. It causes fluid to build up in the affected shoulder joint, as well as pain and swelling. Experts believe injuries cause 10 to 15% of osteoarthritis cases.
What are the treatment options for shoulder arthritis?
Depending on the type of arthritis you have and the severity of your symptoms, your doctor can treat your symptoms in several different ways. In many cases, shoulder pain can be effectively treated without surgery, but in some cases, it may be warranted.
The following are some of the most common treatments for shoulder arthritis:
Medication – Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication can help provide temporary relief from pain and help reduce inflammation. An injection of local anesthetic can also help provide relief. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may also receive corticosteroid injections to help reduce inflammation.
Lifestyle changes – You may be able to get some relief by resting your shoulder or applying moist heat or ice several times a day. Physical therapy that includes exercises designed to increase your range of motion may also help.
Surgery – If non-surgical options aren’t effective enough in controlling your pain and other symptoms, your doctor may recommend surgery if it could help in your particular case.
Surgical options include:
- Resection arthroplasty: This surgery treats arthritis of the AC joint by removing a small amount of bone from the end of the collarbone. The empty space is eventually filled by scar tissue.
- Arthroscopy: This can be used to treat mild cases of glenohumeral arthritis and allows the surgeon to debride (clean out) the inside of the joint. Arthroscopy can help provide pain relief, but it doesn’t eliminate the arthritis from the joint. More surgery may be required in the future.
Joint replacement surgery
Several different parts of your shoulder can be replaced by an artificial component if needed:
- Hemiarthroplasty: used to replace the head of the humerus.
- Total shoulder arthroplasty: can replace the head of the humerus as well as the head of the glenoid. A plastic “cup” can be fitted into the glenoid, and a metal “ball” can be attached to the top of the humerus.
- Reverse total shoulder arthroplasty: reverses he ball and cup – the metal ball is fixed to the glenoid, and the plastic cup is attached to the top of the humerus.
If you’re experiencing shoulder pain or other symptoms of shoulder arthritis, contact Dr. Mendoza’s office today!