Shoulder arthritis occurs when the cartilage surface of the ball and socket joint of the shoulder is damaged or becomes worn. Cartilage normally covers the ends of bones and forms a smooth gliding surface. Shoulder arthritis most commonly occurs as a result of osteoarthritis (or wear and tear arthritis). In osteoarthritis the cartilage becomes thinner and spurs of extra bone (osteophytes) may form which alter the shape of the joint and make it stiff and painful. Eventually the bones may start to rub together. Cartilage damage may occur because of a previous injury such as a shoulder dislocation or fracture. It may also be the result of degeneration of the joint cartilage from age.
Arthritis can also occur as a result of Inflammatory Arthritis, of which Rheumatoid Arthritis is the best known. This affects the cartilage in a similar way but results from a process where the lining of the joint and surrounding soft tissues are affected by an inflammatory process.
What are the Symptoms?
Here are a few treatment options for Shoulder Arthritis
For the early stages of osteoarthritis of the shoulder, the most common treatment is nonsurgical. This includes painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication to reduce or alleviate pain. This is combined with modification of activities and sometimes physiotherapy.
Corticosteroid injections are sometimes used to treat osteoarthritis symptoms. Steroid medication has typically been used with good results. Although the effects of injections are temporary, they can provide significant pain relief until symptoms progress enough to need additional treatment.
An alternative to steroids has been the injection of hyaluronic acid in various forms. This is known as visco-supplementation, by surrounding the diseased cartilage with a thicker and more “cushioned” environment. This treatment has been recently studied in people with osteoarthritis of the knee. Although there was initial enthusiasm for this treatment, research has not shown it to be better than traditional steroid injections. The long-term results of these “viscosupplementation” injections in the shoulder or other joints have not yet been investigated.
In the majority of people shoulder arthritis, the symptoms can be successfully controlled by the above interventions. If these fail to provide sufficient improvement, then surgery in the form of shoulder replacement may be considered.