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What is shoulder arthritis?

Arthritis is a condition that can affect any joint in the body, including the shoulders. Shoulder arthritis can cause pain, stiffness, redness, and swelling in the shoulder joints. The two most common types of shoulder arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. 

  • Osteoarthritis involves a breakdown in the cartilage. It is also known as wear-and-tear arthritis.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis involves the breakdown of the lining of the joints (called the synovium). 

Shoulder arthritis can lead to mobility problems, including difficulty combing your hair or reaching a high shelf. Pain is a common symptom of shoulder arthritis. Shoulder pain with arthritis may vary from person to person, and one person may experience more than one type of pain. Some types of shoulder pain associated with arthritis include aching, dull, sharp, and stabbing. Arthritis can also cause shoulder stiffness. 
Although there is no cure for arthritis of the shoulder, there are many treatment options available. The good news is that with treatment, most people with arthritis can successfully manage their pain and remain active.

Symptoms of Shoulder Arthritis

The most common symptom of arthritis of the shoulder is pain, which is worsened by physical activity and can become more painful over time. The type of pain may vary depending on which shoulder joint is affected.

  • If the glenohumeral shoulder joint is affected, patients may feel a deep ache in the back of their shoulder; the pain can worsen with changes in the weather.
  • If the acromioclavicular (AC) joint is affected, patients may feel pain on the top of the shoulder, sometimes radiating to the neck.
  • Patients with rheumatoid arthritis may have pain throughout the shoulder if both joints are affected.
  • As shoulder arthritis gets worse over time, any movement of the shoulder may cause pain. Pain can be worse at night, which can make sleep difficult.
  • Patients may also experience a limited range of motion, making it difficult to perform activities that require touching or reaching toward your back. You could hear a grinding, clicking, or snapping sound (crepitus) when you move your shoulder.

Diagnosing Shoulder Arthritis

If you have signs of symptoms of arthritis in your shoulder, it’s important to see a doctor. They will ask you about your medical and family history and will also likely evaluate your range of motion; check your shoulders for swelling, redness, and warmth. 

To diagnose shoulder arthritis, your doctor may also order tests, including:

  • Lab tests, such as blood, urine, or joint fluid tests to determine what kind of arthritis you have
  • Imaging tests, such as x-rays, MRI scans, or ultrasounds to look more closely at your shoulder

Beaumont offers nonsurgical treatments for shoulder arthritis

Beaumont shoulder specialists will work with you to treat the signs and symptoms of arthritis in your shoulder. Treatment will depend upon the severity and type of your symptoms and may involve nonsurgical treatment, such as:

  • Rest or changes in your activities to minimize painPhysical therapy to help strengthen your shoulders and improve range of motion
  • Occupational therapy to help you learn how to do daily activities while protecting your shoulder, reducing pain, and improving function
  • Medication, such as pain relievers, corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, or disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologics if you have arthritis due to an autoimmune disease.

Learn more about:

  • Shoulder pain management
  • Physical therapy
  • Mobility issues

Orthopedic surgeons at Beaumont successfully treat shoulder arthritis

Some people who have shoulder arthritis require surgery to get relief from the symptoms. Shoulder surgery to treat arthritis may relieve pain and improve mobility, restoring functionality and improving your quality of life. 

Beaumont shoulder specialists may recommend surgery if your pain or limited mobility is severe. Surgical options for shoulder arthritis include:

  • Arthroscopy, in which a surgeon inserts a small camera into the shoulder joint and cleans out the joint
  • Arthroplasty, also known as shoulder joint replacement, which involves removing the damaged parts of the shoulder and replacing them with artificial components (prosthesis)
  • Hemiarthroplasty, which involves replacing the head of the humerus with a prosthesis

Make an appointment at Beaumont

If you have shoulder pain or other symptoms of shoulder arthritis, contact a Beaumont shoulder specialist to get more information or make an appointment. Our specialists offer a full range of treatments for patients of all ages and all types of joint pain and dysfunction. 
Beaumont’s orthopedic program is available throughout Metro Detroit. No matter which type of shoulder arthritis you have, we have a team of specialists ready to determine the best treatment option for you.

Call us at 800-633-7377 to make an appointment.