Over time the shoulder can become stiff and painful which may be a worn out shoulder joint or arthritis, I like to call it a “sign of maturity”. There can be many causes for shoulder arthritis but the most common is osteoarthritis. There are other causes of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis, previous fractures, or chronic rotator cuff problems. These unfortunately destroy the cartilage in the shoulder joint between the ball and the socket. Arthritis can also occur between the collar bone and the tip of the shoulder too. This usually affects people over 50 years of age.
What are the treatments for Shoulder Arthritis?
Most people with shoulder arthritis of the shoulder have problems with simple activities such as dressing and bathing or raising the arm above their head. There may be some snapping or cracking about the shoulder as well. A physical examination and x-rays of the shoulder will diagnose arthritis in the shoulder. Most treatments for arthritis of the shoulder begin without surgery which involves physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications. However, when the nonsurgical treatment does not reduce the pain there are surgical procedures that may reduce the pain and improve the function and activities of daily living with your shoulder.
When is surgery for Shoulder Arthritis necessary?
If the shoulder arthritis is isolated to the area between the collarbone and the tip of the shoulder it may be possible to remove a portion of this area to relieve the pain. When there is more extensive arthritis throughout the shoulder involving both the ball and socket a shoulder replacement surgery is an excellent option for decreasing the pain and restoring motion. This can be done in a traditional way by replacing the ball of the humerus and the socket of the shoulder blade. This technique relies on the rotator cuff muscles to be in good shape to raise the arm. However, for those patients who have had repeated rotator cuff tears and no longer have a well functioning rotator cuff a new technique involving a reverse shoulder replacement may be a better choice to replace the arthritic shoulder joint. A reverse shoulder replacement or arthroplasty is a unique specialized surgical procedure that takes advantage of the deltoid muscles of the shoulder to provide motion instead of the rotator cuff muscles. If you would like to get further information about shoulder arthritis and treatment options, please feel free to contact me or schedule an appointment.