An inflammation of the shoulder joint can cause pain and
restricted joint movement
Arthritis is a degenerative disease caused by either wear and tear (osteoarthritis) or
an inflammation (rheumatoid arthritis) of one or more joints. Arthritis not only affects
joints; it may secondarily affect supporting structures such as muscles, tendons, and
Symptoms of shoulder arthritis
The usual signs of arthritis of the shoulder are pain, particularly over the
acromioclavicular (AC) joint, and a decrease in shoulder motion. A doctor may suspect the
patient has arthritis when there is both pain and swelling in the joint.
Diagnosis of shoulder arthritis
The diagnosis may be confirmed by a physical examination and x rays. Blood tests may be
helpful for diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis, but other tests may be needed as well.
Analysis of synovial fluid from the shoulder joint may be helpful in diagnosing some kinds
of arthritis. Although arthroscopy permits direct visualization of damage to cartilage,
tendons, and ligaments, and may confirm a diagnosis, it is usually only done if a repair
procedure is to be performed.
Treatment of shoulder arthritis
Most often osteoarthritis of the shoulder is treated with nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen. (Rheumatoid arthritis of the
shoulder may require physical therapy and additional medicine, such as corticosteroids.)
When conservative treatment of osteoarthritis of the shoulder fails to relieve pain or
improve function, or when there is severe deterioration of the joint causing parts to
loosen and move out of place, shoulder joint replacement (arthroplasty) may provide better
results. In this operation, a surgeon replaces the shoulder joint with an artificial ball
for the humerus and a cap (glenoid) for the scapula.
Passive shoulder exercises (where someone else moves the arm to rotate the shoulder
joint) are started soon after surgery. Patients begin exercising on their own about 3 to 6
weeks after surgery. Eventually, stretching and strengthening exercises become a major
part of the rehabilitation program. The success of the operation often depends on the
condition of rotator cuff muscles prior to surgery and the degree to which the patient
follows the exercise program.
Information provided by the
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
National Institutes of Health