Shoulder Arthritis

What is shoulder arthritis, and how is it treated?

Arthritis of the shoulder can be a source of discomfort and reduced mobility for many individuals. In this article, we will explore what shoulder arthritis is, how it develops, its various types, common symptoms, methods of diagnosis, and treatment options for managing this condition.

Be sure to contact the shoulder specialists at OrthoNeuro today to treat any pain you may be experiencing. We have multiple offices located throughout Columbus, Ohio.

What is Shoulder Arthritis?

Shoulder arthritis refers to inflammation in one or more of your shoulder joints. There are two joints in the shoulder. The glenohumeral joint is where the upper bone (humerus) meets the shoulder blade (scapula).

The glenohumeral shoulder joint is a “ball and socket” type joint. And there is also the acromioclavicular (AC) joint, where the collar bone (or clavicle) meets the shoulder blade.

Much like hip arthritis and knee arthritis, shoulder arthritis is a common ailment that affects not only the elderly but can also result from a previous shoulder injury or repeated dislocations of the shoulder.

Types of Shoulder Arthritis

There are several types of shoulder arthritis. They can include the following:


Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis of the shoulder. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that occurs with wear and tear over time.

Osteoarthritis in the shoulder can occur when the protective cartilage that cushions the bones in the joint gradually wears away, causing inflammation and damage to the shoulder joint. This degeneration of the shoulder joint can lead to a range of unpleasant symptoms, including pain, stiffness, and limited mobility.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is another form of arthritis that can affect the shoulder. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects the synovium (lining of the joint).

Post-Traumatic Arthritis

Post-traumatic arthritis is a type of osteoarthritis that develops after an injury, such as a dislocation of the shoulder.

Rotator Cuff Tear Arthropathy

Rotator cuff tear arthropathy is a type of arthritis that can happen when the rotator cuff tendon in your shoulder gets seriously torn. This tear makes it hard for the rotator cuff to keep the top of your upper arm bone (humerus) in its proper place in the shoulder socket (glenoid).

As a result, the humerus can move upwards and start rubbing against the acromion bone. This rubbing can damage the surfaces of these bones, causing arthritis to develop in your shoulder.

Avascular Necrosis (AVN)

Avascular necrosis of the shoulder is another painful condition. It happens when the blood supply to the top of the humerus bone is disrupted. Since bone cells can’t survive without a proper blood supply, AVN can gradually lead to the shoulder joint deteriorating and eventually causing arthritis.

The symptoms of shoulder arthritis can vary in severity, but common signs include:

  • Pain: Persistent shoulder pain, particularly during and after physical activity.
  • Swelling: Swelling around the shoulder joint following strenuous activities.
  • Stiffness: Difficulty lifting your arm above your head due to stiffness in the shoulder joint.
  • Tenderness: The shoulder area may be tender to the touch.
  • Decreased Range of Motion: Reduced mobility in the shoulder, limiting your ability to move the joint freely.
  • Loss of Motion: A noticeable loss of range of motion in the shoulder joint.

How Doctors Diagnose Shoulder Arthritis

If you suspect you have shoulder arthritis due to the symptoms mentioned above, seeking a proper diagnosis is crucial. A medical professional, such as an orthopedic specialist, will conduct a comprehensive evaluation. This assessment may include:

  • Medical History: The doctor will inquire about your symptoms, medical history, and any previous shoulder injuries.
  • Physical Examination: A thorough examination of the shoulder joint, including checking for tenderness, range of motion, and any visible deformities. The location of your pain may determine which shoulder joint is affected.
  • Imaging Tests: X-rays, MRI, or CT scans may be ordered to visualize the condition of the shoulder joint, detect bone spurs, or assess the level of joint damage.

Treatment Options for Arthritis in the Shoulder

The treatment of shoulder arthritis largely depends on the severity of the condition. In the initial stages and mild cases, non-surgical treatment options are typically recommended to treat arthritis, including:

  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medications: These drugs can help provide pain relief and inflammation in the shoulder.
  • Physical Therapy: Range of motion exercises can improve shoulder function and reduce stiffness.
  • Activity Modification: Adjusting your activities to reduce strain on the shoulder joint.
  • Injections: Corticosteroid injections can provide temporary relief from pain and inflammation.

Shoulder surgery, such as shoulder joint replacement surgery, is considered when non-surgical options are ineffective. There are two primary types of shoulder replacement surgery:

  1. Total Shoulder Replacement: Total shoulder replacements involve replacing the damaged joint with artificial components.
  2. Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement: Reverse total shoulder replacements are specialized procedures for patients with damaged rotator cuff tendons. It reverses the usual ball-and-socket configuration, offering an alternative mechanism for arm movement.

Patients who are experiencing the symptoms of shoulder arthritis should not delay a diagnosis. The decision of what treatments are best for you will be determined by what you and your OrthoNeuro Specialist feel are best.

Recovery from Shoulder Arthritis

Recovery from shoulder arthritis treatment varies depending on the chosen method and the individual’s overall health. In many cases, patients experience a significant reduction in pain and an improvement in mobility following treatment.

Make an Appointment with an OrthoNeuro Shoulder Specialist Today!

If you have been suffering the symptoms of shoulder arthritis, schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified orthopedic surgeons at one of our convenient locations throughout Greater Columbus, OH. We will evaluate your unique lifestyle and goals to determine which type of treatment is best for you. Contact us today!

Medically reviewed by B. Rodney Comisar, MD, FAAOS

Shoulder Specialists

“8 weeks after bad rotator cuff surgery and I am doing well thank you for the great service“