Shoulder arthritis is a common cause of shoulder pain. Patients often report "creaking and cracking" in their shoulders, as well as loss of range of motion. Just like in hips and knees, shoulder arthritis occurs when the cartilage wears out.
Your shoulder is made up of three bones: your upper arm bone (humerus), your shoulder blade (scapula), and your collarbone (clavicle).
The head of your upper arm bone fits into a rounded socket in your shoulder blade. This socket is called the glenoid. A combination of muscles and tendons keeps your arm bone centered in your shoulder socket. These tissues are called the rotator cuff.
There are two joints in the shoulder, and both may be affected by arthritis. One joint is located where the clavicle meets the tip of the shoulder blade (acromion). This is called the acromioclavicular (AC) joint.
Where the head of the humerus fits into the scapula is called the glenohumeral joint.
Pain. The most common symptom of arthritis of the shoulder is pain, which is aggravated by activity and progressively worsens.
- If the glenohumeral shoulder joint is affected, the pain is centered in the back of the shoulder and may intensify with changes in the weather. Patients complain of an ache deep in the joint.
- The pain of arthritis in the acromioclavicular (AC) joint is focused on the top of the shoulder. This pain can sometimes radiate or travel to the side of the neck.
- Someone with rheumatoid arthritis may have pain throughout the shoulder if both the glenohumeral and AC joints are affected.
Limited range of motion. Limited motion is another common symptom. It may become more difficult to lift your arm to comb your hair or reach up to a shelf. You may hear a grinding, clicking, or snapping sound (crepitus) as you move your shoulder.
As the disease progresses, any movement of the shoulder causes pain. Night pain is common and sleeping may be difficult.
Medical History and Physical Examination
After discussing your symptoms and medical history, your doctor will examine your shoulder.
During the physical examination, your doctor will look for:
- Weakness (atrophy) in the muscles
- Tenderness to touch
- Extent of passive (assisted) and active (self-directed) range of motion
- Any signs of injury to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments surrounding the joint
- Signs of previous injuries
- Involvement of other joints (an indication of rheumatoid arthritis)
- Crepitus (a grating sensation inside the joint) with movement
- Pain when pressure is placed on the joint
X-rays of an arthritic shoulder will show a narrowing of the joint space, changes in the bone, and the formation of bone spurs (osteophytes). X-ray can sometimes reveal that a patient's shoulder is rubbing "bone on bone",
As with other arthritic conditions, initial treatment of arthritis of the shoulder is nonsurgical. Your doctor may recommend the following treatment options:
- Rest or change in activities to avoid provoking pain. You may need to change the way you move your arm to do things.
- Physical therapy exercises may improve the range of motion in your shoulder.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, may reduce inflammation and pain. These medications can irritate the stomach lining and cause internal bleeding. They should be taken with food. Consult with your doctor before taking over-the-counter NSAIDs if you have a history of ulcers or are taking blood thinning medication.
- Corticosteroid injections in the shoulder can dramatically reduce the inflammation and pain. However, the effect is often temporary.
- Moist heat
- Ice your shoulder for 20 to 30 minutes two or three times a day to reduce inflammation and ease pain.
- If you have rheumatoid arthritis, your doctor may prescribe a disease-modifying drug, such as methotrexate.
- Dietary supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate may help relieve pain. (Note: There is little scientific evidence to support the use of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to treat arthritis. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not test dietary supplements. These compounds may cause negative interactions with other medications. Always consult your doctor before taking dietary supplements.)
Your doctor may consider surgery if your pain causes disability and is not relieved with nonsurgical options.
Arthroscopy. Cases of mild glenohumeral arthritis may be treated with arthroscopy, During arthroscopy, the surgeon inserts a small camera, called an arthroscope, into the shoulder joint. The camera displays pictures on a television screen, and the surgeon uses these images to guide miniature surgical instruments.
Because the arthroscope and surgical instruments are thin, the surgeon can use very small incisions (cuts), rather than the larger incision needed for standard, open surgery.
During the procedure, your surgeon can debride (clean out) the inside of the joint. Although the procedure provides pain relief, it will not eliminate the arthritis from the joint. If the arthritis progresses, further surgery may be needed in the future.
Shoulder joint replacement (arthroplasty). Advanced arthritis of the glenohumeral joint can be treated with shoulder replacement surgery, in which the damaged parts of the shoulder are removed and replaced with artificial components, called a prosthesis.
As pictured above, the ball is replaced with a metal ball, and the socket is resurfaced with a plastic socket. If you have shoulder pain or think you have shoulder arthritis then call our office. Dr. Bahu is specially trained in the diagnoses and tretment of shoulder problems.