Osteoarthritis of the Shoulder

Osteoarthritis of the shoulder, also known as degenerative arthritis, is a gradual breakdown of cartilage in the joints. This cartilage creates a barrier between the bones that is susceptible to deterioration. When this occurs, pain develops and impacts quality of life.


Osteoarthritis of the shoulder is often referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis because it develops with age. Although joint injuries and overuse can cause osteoarthritis to develop in younger people, it is more common in older people – especially women.


Pain is the primary symptom of shoulder osteoarthritis. It is usually worse when moving the arm or after periods of rest. Range of motion is also affected, limiting the ability to move the arm freely. Some people may also notice a clicking noise when moving the shoulder.


Physicians will review symptoms and medical history to diagnose osteoarthritis of the shoulder. A physical exam will also take place to assess pain, loss of motion, and weakness. Imaging tests such as x-rays and MRIs may be used, as well as blood tests to rule out rheumatoid arthritis.


Treatment usually varies depending on the stage of arthritis. In mild cases, anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroid injections, and physical therapy are all effective. If conservative methods are not relieving symptoms, surgery may be required to repair or replace the joint.

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