Osteoarthritis is the most common type of shoulder arthritis and generally affects patients over 50 years of age. The condition is also known as “wear and tear” arthritis because of the progressive wearing away of the cartilage of the shoulder joint. As the surface wears down, bone is exposed making the shoulder painful and mobility progressively more difficult. Shoulder arthritis is also common in those who have had a prior shoulder injury like a fracture or rotator cuff tear. There may also be a genetic predisposition to shoulder arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect the shoulder joints and can affect people of any age. It is a systemic condition that causes inflammation in the joints that can be damaging to the cartilage and bone.
Symptoms of shoulder arthritis:
- Pain with activity
- Loss of mobility
- Pain and Stiffness
- Grinding or catching feeling
Evaluation of a patient should include a physical examination and x-rays which can be used as a baseline for ongoing evaluation of the condition.
Initial treatment of arthritis of the shoulder may involve physical therapy and a combination of some of the following.
- Rest or revise activities that cause pain
- Moist heat
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation
- Ice for 20 to 30 minutes two or three times a day for pain and inflammation
- Steroidal Injection into the joint to reduce inflammation
If nonsurgical treatment does not reduce pain, there are surgical options.
Total Shoulder Replacement
For patients with severe arthritis of the shoulder who have not achieved pain relief from non-operative treatments, or who have had a severe fracture, a total shoulder replacement is often an option. The surgeon replaces the damaged or arthritic joint surfaces with a highly-polished metal ball attached to a stem, and a plastic socket. In cases where the ball is severely damaged and the socket is normal, the surgeon may replace only the ball.
As with any joint replacement surgery, a rehabilitation program that includes physical therapy and home exercises is key to a successful recovery.
Reverse Shoulder Replacement
In certain cases, where the rotator cuff tendons are severely degenerated or torn beyond repair and the patient has a drastic loss of mobility and severe pain, a reverse shoulder replacement may be an option.