What is Arthritis of the Shoulder?

  • Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of your joints causing pain and stiffness.
  • There is no cure for arthritis of the shoulder, but there are many treatment options available.
  • Your shoulder is made up of three bones: your upper arm bone (humerus), your shoulder blade (scapula), and your collarbone (clavicle).

Nonsurgical Treatment

Conservative treatment of arthritis is the first line of defense. The following treatment options may be recommended:
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, may reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Physical therapy exercises may improve the range of motion in your shoulder.
  • Rest or change in activities to avoid pain
  • Corticosteroid injections in the shoulder can reduce the inflammation and pain.
  • Moist heat
  • Ice your shoulder

Surgical Treatment

If your pain causes disability and is not relieved with nonsurgical options, your doctor may consider surgery.

Arthroscopy. Mild cases of arthritis can be treated with arthroscopy.

Shoulder joint replacement (arthroplasty). Shoulder replacement surgery is used to treat advanced arthritis. This surgery entails removing the damaged parts of the shoulder are and replacing them with artificial components, called a prosthesis.

Replacement surgery options include:
  • Hemiarthroplasty. Just the head of the humerus is replaced by an artificial component.
  • Resection arthroplasty: In this procedure, a small amount of bone from the end of the collarbone is removed, leaving a space that gradually fills in with scar tissue.
  • Reverse total shoulder arthroplasty. In a reverse total shoulder replacement, the socket and metal ball are opposite a conventional total shoulder arthroplasty
  • Total shoulder arthroplasty. Both the head of the humerus and the glenoid are replaced.

Our Treatment Approach

There are five major types of arthritis that typically affect the shoulder.


Also known as “wear-and-tear” arthritis, the smooth outer covering of bone is destroyed and wears away and the space between the bones decreases. Osteoarthritis usually affects people over 50 years of age.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic disease that attacks multiple joints throughout the body. It is symmetrical, meaning that it usually affects the same joint on both sides of the body.

Rheumatoid arthritis causes the lining that lubricates the joint to swell, causing pain and stiffness in the joint.

RA is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack its own tissues.

Posttraumatic Arthritis

This form of osteoarthritis develops after an injury, such as a fracture or dislocation of the shoulder.

Rotator Cuff Tear Arthropathy

Arthritis can also develop after a large, long-standing rotator cuff tendon tear. The combination of the tear and advanced arthritis can lead to severe pain and weakness. The patient may not be able to lift their arm away from the side.

Avascular Necrosis

Avascular necrosis (AVN) of the shoulder occurs when the blood supply to the head of the humerus is interrupted. Without a blood supply the bone cells die and can lead to destruction of the shoulder joint and arthritis.


While the exact cause of arthritis is unknown, some common factors are:
  • Aging
  • Bone spurs
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Inflammation
  • Loss of cartilage in joints


Pain. The most common symptom of arthritis of the shoulder is pain, which is aggravated by activity and progressively worsens.

Limited range of motion. Limited motion is another common symptom. You may hear a grinding, clicking, or snapping sound as you move your shoulder.

Night pain is common and sleeping may be difficult.

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