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Shoulder osteoarthritis – symptoms, causes & treatment 

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Arthritis is a chronic condition that causes inflammation of the joints. However, this one symptom is used to describe more than 100 different types of arthritis. One of the more common types is osteoarthritis. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), nearly 9% of men and 18% of women suffer from osteoarthritis across the globe. Osteoarthritis is highly prevalent and mostly affects the shoulder joint. Several men and women, worldwide, are living with the symptoms of shoulder osteoarthritis

In this article, Dr Reetadyuti Mukhopadhyay, a leading orthopaedic doctor at the CK Birla Hospital, explores what is osteoarthritis of the shoulder

What is shoulder osteoarthritis?

Your shoulder is made up of three bones – upper arm bone, shoulder blade and collarbone. These bones make up two joints inside your shoulder:

  • Acromioclavicular joint: The joint where the collarbone meets the tip of the shoulder blade.
  • Glenohumeral joint: The joint where the upper arm bone fits into the shoulder blade. 

The ends of your shoulder bones are protected by a smooth white tissue known as articular cartilage.

What is osteoarthritis of the shoulder?

Osteoarthritis is the degenerative wear and tear of the articular cartilage. Over several years of use, the smooth protective tissue between the bones decreases. As a result, the bones of a joint rub against each other causing pain and swelling. 

As the name suggests, osteoarthritis in the shoulder joint is a degenerative joint disease of the shoulder. When this ailment affects the glenohumeral joint, it is known as glenohumeral osteoarthritis shoulder

Glenohumeral osteoarthritis shoulder is more common and prevalent than arthritis in the acromioclavicular joint. 

What are the shoulder osteoarthritis symptoms?

The primary symptom of osteoarthritis in the shoulder joint is pain. However, shoulder osteoarthritis symptoms are characterised by pain that occurs while moving the shoulder or after you have moved the shoulder. 

Other common symptoms of shoulder arthritis include limited or restricted range of motion, a clicking noise while moving the shoulder joint and an increase in pain while sleeping. 

What are the causes of shoulder osteoarthritis?

As mentioned above, shoulder osteoarthritis is a condition that is caused by the wear and tear of the shoulder joint. Over a span of several years, shoulder arthritis occurs due to overuse or aging. Primarily, osteoarthritis of left shoulder or even the right shoulder happens when the cartilage (soft tissue) in between the bones of the joints begin to break down.  

Shoulder arthritis is highly common in people over the age of 50 years. However, it can also affect younger people. Mostly, in young people, this ailment is a result of injury or trauma, for example, shoulder dislocation or fracture. 

It is evident that no person is exempt from developing osteoarthritis. However, the risk for osteoarthritis of right shoulder or left increases due to: 

  • Older age
  • Genetics
  • Sex
  • Overweight
  • Infection in the joint infection
  • A history of shoulder dislocation
  • Previous injury
  • Occupations, such as heavy construction 

How is shoulder osteoarthritis diagnosed?

Your orthopaedic doctor will conduct a few tests to diagnose osteoarthritis of left shoulder or osteoarthritis of right shoulder. Before a shoulder osteoarthritis treatment is offered, it is important to draw a thorough diagnosis. Here is what the diagnosis protocol entails:

  • Medical history: Your doctor will first discuss your medical history in detail. He/she will ask you whether you have particularly suffered from a shoulder injury or trauma. He/she will also collect information about your overall wellbeing and health conditions in the past. 
  • Physical exam: Your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam to assess your symptoms. You will be asked to move your shoulder to examine your range of motion, sensitivity and pain. 
  • X-ray: An X-ray is one of the key diagnostic imaging tests that help to rule out the possibility of other ailment or injuries such as a fracture. 
  • MRI Scans: An MRI scan helps your healthcare provider to closely examine the state of your joint. Your doctor will be able to find the cause and site of the problem with the help of this imaging test. 
  • Blood tests: A blood workup is a general diagnostic test. It helps the healthcare provider to rule out the possibility of other conditions such as infection. 
  • Arthrocentesis: Arthrocentesis is a laboratory test in which a specific fluid of the shoulder joint is removed with the help of a thin needle. The process of aspiration of a joint is known as arthrocentesis. This procedure helps to rule out other ailments such as joint infection or injuries. 

After the diagnosis is complete, your doctor offers the right shoulder osteoarthritis treatment depending on your overall wellbeing, age and health. 

How to treat osteoarthritis in the shoulder?

Shoulder osteoarthritis treatment is unique for every patient. Several factors such as your overall general health, age, past medical records, the severity of symptoms and more determine which treatment is ideal for you. 

Here are some common methods of shoulder osteoarthritis treatment:

  • Rest: The first line of treatment is also non-surgical. Your doctor will assess your health and determine if resting your shoulder joint may be apt for you to relieve symptoms. You will be instructed to move your shoulder in a particular way and avoid positions that may aggravate pain. Your doctor will help you understand what is the right way to move your shoulder joint while performing everyday activities. 
  • Medicines: Along with resting the shoulder joint, you will be offered certain medications that bring relief from the pain. Your doctor will prescribe certain medications to reduce the pain and inflammation of the joint. 
  • Shoulder osteoarthritis physical therapy: Physiotherapy or physical therapy is an effective method of training your shoulder and strengthening it. Physiotherapy is indicated for most people looking for an answer on how to treat osteoarthritis in shoulder. However, the right time to seek therapy varies for everyone. 
  • Exercises: Depending on your condition, your healthcare provider may train you to perform certain exercises to help strengthen the shoulder joint. 
  • Osteoarthritis shoulder surgery:  Surgical methods for treatment are indicated when non-surgical treatments fail to be effective or improve the condition. Osteoarthritis shoulder replacement is done to replace the damaged or diseased joint with an artificial joint. 

Osteoarthritis shoulder replacement is also known as shoulder arthroplasty. It is a partial or total invasive procedure and is often recommended as a last resort for advanced arthritis. Osteoarthritis shoulder surgery recovery time is nearly 3-6 weeks. 

Another treatment procedure is stem cell therapy for osteoarthritis of the shoulder. It is a fairly new method that involves the use of stem cells (building blocks of human tissue) for the treatment of arthritis. 

The concluding note

As mentioned above, the shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in human body. Due to its excessive use over the years, nearly everyone is at a risk of developing an arthritic condition concerning the shoulder. 

Shoulder osteoarthritis is a common ailment that affects several people in India. Despite its rising figures, the treatment of osteoarthritis of the shoulder is accessible. 

Book an appointment with Dr Reetadyuti Mukhopadhyay, a leading orthopaedic doctor at the CK Birla Hospital to learn more about treatment methods for shoulder conditions. 

FAQs

Ques: Is osteoarthritis of the shoulder common?

Ans: Yes, osteoarthritis of the shoulder is the most common form of arthritis affecting the shoulder. 

Ques: What does osteoarthritis of the shoulder feel like?

Ans: Osteoarthritis of the shoulder is characterised by pain, swelling, stiffness and reduced range of motion of the shoulder. 

Ques: Can shoulder osteoarthritis be cured?

Ans: No, there is no cure for shoulder osteoarthritis. However, this ailment can be treated effectively to relieve symptoms and improve strength. 

Ques: What is the best treatment for osteoarthritis?

Ans: There are several treatment methods for osteoarthritis. The best treatment for each patient is distinct and depends upon their health, symptoms and age. 

Also, read: What is frozen shoulder? Causes, prevention and treatment