Shoulder Arthritis

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Shoulder arthritis is a term that actually covers multiple shoulder disorders. The only thing these disorders have in common is that they all in some way reflect inflammation of the shoulder joint.

There are 2 joints in the shoulder that may be subject to arthritis. The shoulder actually comprises 3  bones – the upper arm, the shoulder blade and the collar bone. The intersection of the collar bone and the shoulder blade is called the acromioclavicular joint. The glenohumeral joint represents the intersection of the upper arm bone and the shoulder blade. Shoulder arthritis can appear at either or both of these joints.

An arthritic shoulder can actually be the result of any of the following types of arthritis:

  • Osteoarthritis, which involves wearing away of the outer covering of the bones in a joint (cartilage). As this happens, the bones eventually come into direct contact with each other, causing arthritic pain. This type of arthritis tends to appear in older individuals. Of the 2 shoulder joints, it is more likely to affect the acromioclavicular joint;
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is another type of arthritis that causes swelling in the lining of a joint, which in turn causes pain and stiffness. It tends to simultaneously affect the same joint on both sides (left & right) of the body. When shoulder arthritis is of this type, it can affect either shoulder joint with equal likelihood.
  • Post traumatic arthritis is another form of shoulder arthritis that can appear after a traumatic injury such as a fractured or dislocated shoulder;
  • Rotator Cuff tear Arthropathy is a fourth type of shoulder arthritis. This can develop over time if you have suffered a severe tear of your rotator tendon that has not been treated (or treated properly).

Symptoms Of Shoulder Arthritis

The most common and noticeable symptom is pain. This pain is aggravated by activity involving the shoulder and usually worsens over time.

You will also experience diminished range of motion of your shoulder joint. Eventually, things may get to the point at which any movement of the shoulder is painful. The pain may be worse at night, making sleep more difficult.

Treatment

It is important to recognize that there is no cure for shoulder (or any other type of) arthritis. The main thing your doctor will likely do is try to reduce your pain, increase the shoulder range of motion and slow the progression of the disease. You can:

  • Change the way in which you use your arm or shoulder to perform everyday tasks;
  • Undertake physical therapy exercises to increase  your shoulder range of motion;
  • Start taking analgesics or prescription pain killer medication such as NSAIDS;
  • Use moist heat therapy to control the pain;
  • Use a shoulder brace to restrict movement of the shoulder and therefore reduce the pain.

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