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Shoulder Arthritis

Shoulder Arthritis / Acromioclavicular Joint Arthritis

What is Shoulder Arthritis?

Your shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint, made up of your humerus (arm bone), scapula (shoulder blade) and clavicle (collar bone).

The end of the humerus (the “ball”) fits into a shallow cavity in the scapula (the “socket”); this joint is called the glenohumeral joint.

A second joint called the acromioclavicular (AC) joint forms where the end of your clavicle meets the top of your scapula. This is a gliding joint, meaning that the bones can glide past each other in any direction.

Shoulder arthritis occurs when the cartilage surrounding the ends of your shoulder bones wears away and eventually exposes the bone.

As the disease progresses, painful bone spurs called osteophytes can form in the place of cartilage.

Shoulder arthritis is most common in the AC joint, although it can occur in the glenohumeral joint.

Causes | Symptoms | Treatment | Prevention

What Causes Shoulder Arthritis?

There is no single cause of shoulder OA, but several factors increase your risk of developing it, including:

  • Increasing age, especially being over 50
  • Gender – women are more likely to get arthritis
  • Being overweight
  • Family history of arthritis
  • Previous shoulder injuries, such as a dislocated or fractured shoulder
  • Genetic defects in the cartilage or shoulder
  • Long-term, repetitive strain on your shoulder, whether occupational or recreational

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of shoulder arthritis, but rheumatoid arthritis and gout can also occur in the shoulder.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Shoulder Arthritis?

The most common symptom of shoulder arthritis is pain in the shoulder joint. Most often, the pain develops slowly over time, but it can appear suddenly.

Other signs and symptoms of shoulder arthritis include:

  • Pain and tenderness in the back of the shoulder, for glenohumeral joint osteoarthritis
  • Pain and tenderness in the top of the shoulder and into the neck, for AC joint osteoarthritis
  • Pain and difficulty sleeping
  • Stiffness in the shoulder joint, especially first thing in the morning or after periods of inactivity
  • A crunching, clicking, or snapping sound (known as crepitus) when moving your shoulder
  • Decreased range of motion and pain while doing routine activities such as reaching overhead, brushing your hair or teeth, or putting on a seat belt
  • Pain during or after strenuous activity

Concerned about symptoms of shoulder arthritis? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.

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How is Shoulder Arthritis Treated?

Treatments for shoulder arthritis typically include medications, physiotherapy, and surgery, though surgery should be considered only as a last resort, and many drugs carry serious side effects.

Treatments for shoulder arthritis include:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Medications, including:
    • Over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen
    • Topical medications such as creams, sprays, gels or patches
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), though these drugs can have serious side effects
    • Corticosteroid or hyaluronic injections, though these cannot be continued for a long period of time
  • Surgery – if surgery is necessary after other less invasive treatments have not helped, physiotherapy is an important part of rehabilitation

Physiotherapy for Shoulder Arthritis

Physiotherapy is a drug-free and non-surgical treatment that has been proven to reduce arthritis pain.

The goal of physiotherapy for shoulder arthritis is to prevent the progression of the disease, reduce pain, regain strength, and increase joint mobility, function, and quality of life.

Depending on your individual needs, physiotherapy for shoulder arthritis can include:

Are you seeking physiotherapy for arthritis treatment? Book an assessment today.

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Can Shoulder Arthritis Go Away on Its Own?

Unfortunately, no. There is no cure for shoulder arthritis, but with proper treatment, the disease can be managed effectively and progression stopped or delayed.

If you have shoulder arthritis, there are things you can do to make daily living easier, including:

  • Minimizing activities that put stress on your shoulder joint, like playing golf or kayaking
  • Using assistive devices such as reachers, zipper pulls, long-handled brushes or sponges, and specially designed adaptive clothing
  • Applying heat and cold therapy

Can You Prevent Shoulder Arthritis?

There are many things you can do to prevent or reduce the chance of developing shoulder arthritis, including:

  • Exercising regularly, including stretching exercises such as yoga or tai chi (at least 30 minutes every day)
  • Eating a non-inflammatory diet (avoiding processed and refined foods and sugar)
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

Book a Physiotherapist Consult for Shoulder Arthritis Today

Concerned about symptoms of shoulder arthritis? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.

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