Shoulder arthritis

In simple terms, arthritis is inflammation of the joints and that can occur anywhere on the body, often seen in load-bearing joints such as the knees and hips. The shoulders are prone to developing arthritis because of their continual and wide range of movement.

What are the causes of shoulder arthritis?

There are two joints in the shoulder, both of which can be affected. The first is situated where the collarbone meets the shoulder blade and is known as the acromioclavicular joint. The second is the glenohumeral joint and this is where the head of the upper arm bone fits into the scapula.

The bones in the shoulder joint are covered with cartilage which minimises friction and lubricates the joint. Over time, the cartilage gradually thins, causing the bones to rub against each other. The shoulder then becomes very painful, inflamed, stiff and there may be a clicking sound, particularly when you raise your shoulder above your head. Arthritis affecting the glenohumeral joint typically presents on the back of the shoulder whereas if the AC joint is affected, pain is centred on the top of the shoulder and can travel up the neck.

The most common form of arthritis to affect the shoulder is osteoarthritis which is the result of wear and tear and commonly affects middle-aged and older patients. Osteoarthritis is more common in the acromioclavicular joint than the glenohumeral joint. Other forms of arthritis that might affect the shoulder include rheumatoid arthritis that is a swelling of the synovium lining, causing pain and stiffness.

How will your arthritis be diagnosed?

During your consultation at London Shoulder Specialists, your consultant will identify the particular joint that is affected and assess the amount of discomfort and lack of mobility you are experiencing. They will usually arrange investigative tests such as X-rays, blood tests, and MRI or CT scans.

Treatment of osteoarthritis depends on a number of factors. This typically focuses on your age, lifestyle and the degree of activity that you are hoping to return to. Non-surgical treatment options include anti-inflammatory medications and steroid injections. Surgery can focus on cleaning up the joint in a process called debridement, but you may require shoulder replacement surgery if osteoarthritis is severe.

For more information on the management and treatment of osteoarthritis of the shoulder, please get in touch with the London Shoulder Specialists.