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6 Facts About Arthritis of the Shoulder

Here are six facts you should know if you have shoulder arthritis or think arthritis may be developing in your shoulder.

1. There are Different Forms of Shoulder Arthritis

While arthritis of the shoulder is less common than arthritis of the hip or knee, the shoulder can still be prone to wear-and-tear, an immune disorder, a lack of blood flow, or injury.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of shoulder arthritis and most frequent form resulting in shoulder replacement surgery. This degenerative joint disease develops over the course of years, wearing down cartilage until there’s an increase in friction and bone-on-bone contact, causing more irritation and inflammation.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease which causes the body’s immune system to attack the tissue between the bones of a joint, leading to pain and swelling with increased joint friction.

Avascular necrosis is a weakness and decay in the bones caused by a lack of blood flow to the area. This can develop because of steroid use, alcoholism, sickle cell disease, or a traumatic injury that interrupts blood vessels in the area.

Posttraumatic arthritis is caused by an acute injury that damages the cartilage and other tissue around the joint. This form of arthritis may cause an increase in friction and wearing of the tissue, and eventually the bone.

2. Pain is a Common Symptom of Arthritis of the Shoulder

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, pain is the most common symptom of shoulder arthritis. This pain may increase with activity and regularly interrupt sleep, and as the disease progresses, any movement of the shoulder might cause pain. Other symptoms can include:

  • Limited range of motion
  • Grinding, clicking, or snapping noises with movement
  • Joint weakness
  • Joint enlargement
  • A deep ache at the back of the shoulder
  • Pain on top of the shoulder that radiates up the neck

3. Lifestyle Modifications Can Ease Shoulder Arthritis Pain

Arthritis is a degenerative disease and cannot be reversed or cured, but a range of options are available for relieving pain and slowing the progression of other symptoms. Your Orthopedic surgeon will likely recommend nonsurgical options first, like:

  • Resting your shoulder
  • Changing how you move your shoulder
  • Exercising to improve range of motion, strength, and function of your shoulder
  • Applying moist heat to your shoulder
  • Icing your shoulder for 20 to 30 minutes two to three times a day

4. Medications Can Reduce Shoulder Arthritis Pain

There are many medications that can help alleviate joint pain caused by arthritis. Always talk to your doctor before taking any new medications, as it may cause side effects or interact with other medications you are taking. Your doctor may also recommend an alternative option or dose because everyone reacts to medications differently.

Over-the-counter, non-narcotic pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications are usually the first suggestions. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (or NSAIDs) include ibuprofen and naproxen and are available over-the-counter and by prescription. People with certain health conditions should be cautious when taking NSAIDs or avoid them altogether. Acetaminophen is another medication that can relieve pain, especially for those who cannot take traditional NSAIDs.

5. Assistive Devices Can Reduce Stress Applied to Your Arthritic Shoulder

Assistive devices can make everyday activities easier by reducing the stress put on your shoulders. Devices that may help include:

  • Zipper pulls, button aids, and clothing with Velcro for dressing and undressing
  • Electric can openers, food processors, and mandolins for slicing food and cooking
  • Faucet levers and tap turners for your bathroom
  • Key holders and gas cap openers for your car
  • Light-weight hoses for gardening
  • Hands-free frames for quilting or embroidering
  • Card holders and shufflers for game night

6. Surgery is a Treatment Option for Late-Stage Shoulder Arthritis

Joint replacement surgery is often recommended for late- or end-stage arthritis after nonsurgical approaches failed to ease symptoms. Our Orthopedic surgeons perform total shoulder replacement, reverse total shoulder replacement, and shoulder resurfacing surgeries, providing long-term relief to shoulder pain.

Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery

A total shoulder replacement surgery is really a bone and cartilage replacement with an artificial surface. The shoulder itself is not replaced (as is commonly thought) but rather an implant is inserted on the bone ends. This is done with a metal alloy on the humerus (arm bone) and plastic inserts on the glenoid (socket). These create a new, smooth cushion and a functioning joint that can reduce or eliminate pain.

Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery

If your rotator cuff (the muscles that stabilize the shoulder) is too damaged and you have arthritis, a total shoulder replacement surgery would likely fail. Instead, a reverse total shoulder replacement surgery can provide relief. During this procedure, a hemisphere is installed on the shoulder blade while a socket joint is attached to the top of the humerus. Following surgery, the joint is powered by the deltoid muscle instead of the rotator cuff.

Shoulder Resurfacing Surgery

Shoulder resurfacing surgery, also called resurfacing hemiarthroplasty, is a treatment option in which the humerus is mostly kept intact. It includes minimal bone resection, which means your Orthopedic surgeon removes the least amount of bone possible.

This procedure involves removing the humerus from the socket of the shoulder joint, resurfacing the ball of the joint with a metal cap, and replacing the bone into the joint. A shoulder resurfacing surgery is usually targeted toward patients who are younger than the typical joint replacement candidate, who have a healthy amount of cartilage covering their joint socket, and who have a reasonably intact rotator cuff. Because there is minimal bone damage, there are more options for future revisions or replacement surgeries.

Help for Shoulder Arthritis Pain at Sauk Prairie Healthcare

Sauk Prairie Healthcare is here to help you manage and treat your arthritis. Our Orthopedic surgeons can offer information and guidance to determine if a shoulder replacement surgery is right for you. If you are not ready for surgery, our physical therapists can provide education, exercises, and hands-on treatments to help manage your pain.