The shoulder is a complex, highly mobile joint designed to provide the highest amount of motion of any joint in the body. As with most joints in the body, the shoulder is the connection of two bones with a layer of cartilage surrounded by a joint capsule. The cartilage acts as a smooth surface to allow the bones to move over each other smoothly and without pain. However, cartilage cannot repair itself easily. Over time the layers of cartilage can get thinner and thinner, providing less cushioning and a rougher surface. Once it hits a critical point, this can make moving the joint feel stiff, achy, and clunky. Pain can be relatively mild or very severe. In the shoulder, the glenohumeral joint is the primary joint but there is also the smaller acromioclavicular, or AC, joint that can also get arthritis and generate pain.
The risk factors of shoulder osteoarthritis include:
A comprehensive history and physical examination is the most important piece to determine the cause of your shoulder pain. Your shoulder specialist may also utilize imaging studies such as x-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, and/or ultrasound to better see the joint space. These advanced imaging modalities allow better visualization of the shoulder’s bony anatomy, quality of cartilage, and surrounding soft tissue structures.