Arthritis is a condition where the cartilage that protects bones gets worn down, so bones rub against each other. The shoulder is the third most common joint affected by arthritis, after the hip and knee.
What is shoulder arthritis?
Osteoarthritis – also known as degenerative joint disease – is the most common form of shoulder arthritis. It develops over time, as wear and tear happens to cartilage, so it gets worn and eventually worn away completely. Without the cushioning effect of cartilage, your bones painfully grate against each other.
Other forms of arthritis you can get in your shoulder include rheumatoid arthritis – which is caused by issues with the immune system – and post-traumatic arthritis, which is usually caused by an injury.
What are the symptoms of shoulder arthritis?
Unfortunately, not everyone who develops shoulder arthritis will have obvious symptoms initially.
That being said, common symptoms associated with shoulder arthritis include:
- Pain in the shoulder, including at rest
- Pain that worsens when lifting your arms overhead
- Feeling that the bones in your shoulder are grinding
- Difficulty and stiffness moving your shoulder
- Difficulty sleeping due to pain
What causes shoulder arthritis?
Anyone can get shoulder arthritis, but some people are more likely to than others.
Common risk factors and causes of shoulder arthritis include:
- Being over 50 – you’re more likely to develop shoulder arthritis as you get older
- A shoulder injury – if your shoulder is fractured, dislocated or injured in some other way, this increases your chances of getting post-traumatic arthritis
- Your genes – shoulder arthritis can run in families.
How is shoulder arthritis diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you about your medical history, including details of any prior injuries, alongside information about the exercise you do. They will ask you to move your shoulder in certain ways while they look for any problems in movement and grinding joints as well as tenderness and weakness in the shoulder
In some instances, your doctor may take an x-ray, CT or MRI scan to try to get a better idea of whether you have shoulder arthritis or another potential condition.
How is shoulder arthritis treated?
Your doctor will recommend some (or all) of the following:
- Physical therapy (this usually means you meet with a physical therapist once to learn some gentle movement exercises, and can then continue with the exercises on your own at home to strengthen your shoulder muscles)
- Anti-inflammatory drugs and medications
- Steroid injections into your shoulder (in some cases)
If the above treatments don’t work, you might need surgery. You will be advised on the surgery that is best for you.
If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.