What is arthritis of the shoulder?

The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint. The surfaces of the ball and socket are covered by cartilage. This is a very smooth surface that allows the joint to move easily. Normally the smooth surface of the ball glides on the socket. In arthritis the cartilage layer is worn away exposing the bone beneath. This results in the bone of the ball grinding against the bone on the socket.

What are the symptoms of shoulder arthritis?

Arthritic Shoulder

Patients with arthritis will experience shoulder pain and stiffness. Often patients describe the pain as a dull, constant ache (similar to a tooth ache). The stiffness in the shoulder makes it difficult to perform daily activities such as bathing, dressing and working. It is often very hard to place the hand behind the back.

What are the treatment options?

There are several possible treatments for shoulder arthritis. Selecting the appropriate treatment depends on theseverity of

symptoms as well as the needs of the patient. Some of the options are:

  • Medications (anti-inflammatory medications, Tylenol)
  • Stretching exercises
  • Cortisone Injections
  • Shoulder replacement surgery

What is our treatment approach?

The first step is to try a period of non-operative treatment. This includes medications to control pain and stretching exercises to improve range of motion and prevent further stiffness. If symptoms do not improve then a cortisone injection might be considered.

If symptoms still continue surgery might be considered to perform a shoulder replacement.

What pain medications do you recommend?

Arthritic Shoulder

We recommend that patients control their pain using non-prescription strength medications. Anti-inflammatory medications such as Motrin, Ibuprofen, Alleve, etc. are effective. Tylenol may also be used in addition to an anti-inflammatory. It is important that you follow the manufacturers directions when using these medicines and not exceed recommended dosages.

Importantly, we do not recommend narcotic pain medications for shoulder arthritis. Although they provide temporary pain relief, long term use of narcotics can make the situation worse.