Shoulder osteoarthritis overview

Shoulder osteoarthritis, also called degenerative arthritis, is a gradual breakdown of cartilage in the joints. Cartilage is a tough, flexible connective tissue that covers the ends of the bones in the joints. Osteoarthritis of the shoulder can severely impact a person’s lifestyle.

Causes of osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis commonly develops as a result of the wear and tear of aging. It also frequently results from traumatic injury to the joint. Shoulder osteoarthritis is more common in older people, in women and in people who have occupations that place increased stress on the shoulder. People who have certain diseases, bone deformities or genetic predisposition are also at a higher risk.

Damaging the cartilage

In a healthy shoulder, the head of the humerus is covered by a layer of cartilage. Healthy cartilage allows the bone the glide smoothly within the joint. But, in the shoulder with osteoarthritis, this cartilage begins to deteriorate and wear away. Repetitive motion or injury may speed this deterioration.

Bone spurs

Eventually, the bone of the humerus may rub directly against the bone of the shoulder socket. This rubbing can cause the gradual growth of boning bumps along the edge of the joint. This bumps, called bone spurs or osteophytes, can cause joint pain.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis in the shoulder

Symptoms of osteoarthritis in the shoulder may include pain in the shoulder and the arm. The movement may increase this pain. The shoulder may feel tender when pressure is applied. The person may experience a grating sensation when moving the arm. The shoulder may feel stiff and this stiffness may interfere with the arm’s range of motion.

Osteoarthritis shoulder treatment

Treatment options depend on the severity of arthritis. In the early stages, the shoulder may be treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroid injections, and physical therapy. If these methods are not helpful and if the shoulder continues to deteriorate surgery may be needed to repair or replace the joint.