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Shoulder Osteoarthritis

Understanding the Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Understanding Shoulder Osteoarthritis

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.

Causes of Shoulder Osteoarthritis

The risk factors of shoulder osteoarthritis include:

  • Participating in jobs or sports that require repetitive use and heavy loads to the shoulder.
  • Age and genetics
  • History of significant injury to the joint itself.
  • Smoking

Symptoms of Shoulder Osteoarthritis

  • Gradually worsening pain and range of motion of the shoulder
  • Weakness of the shoulder due to pain
  • Popping, clicking, grinding sensation when attempting to move the sholder

Diagnosing Shoulder Osteoarthritis

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.

Treatment Options

  • Prevention – Focus on your posture and technique if your work or hobbies require a lot of overhead activity, stretch and strengthen the surrounding muscles with exercise, maintain good mobility of the shoulder joint, and avoid nicotine.
  • Physical therapy – To help build strength and maintain range of motion, correct your posture, and improve function
  • Medications – Usually NSAIDs or Tylenol short term are recommended to help control symptoms while going through a PT program.
  • Steroid injections- Strong anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain and inflammation in order to better facilitate therapy. These injections are typically done under ultrasound guidance.
  • Hyaluronic acid- These injections specifically target joint osteoarthritis. Hyaluronic acid mimics healthy joint fluid. By injecting this into the shoulder joint, not only do you help lubricate the joint, you can help calm down the chronically inflamed joint environment leading to longer-term pain reduction
  • Regenerative medicine– Harnessing the body’s incredible power to heal itself, rebuild tissue, and avoid surgery. Options include PRP, Bone-marrow derived stem cells, and Microfragmented Adipose injections.

Our Doctor that Treats Shoulder Osteoarthritis

Dr. Steven Papuchis

Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

Learn about available treatment options.

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Reviewed by: Dr. Steven Papuchis, DO.

Reviewed by: Dr. Steven Papuchis, DO.