Do I Have Shoulder Arthritis?

Shoulder arthritis is typically caused by cartilage damage in the shoulder joint. It is caused by the cartilage in the shoulder joint breaking down. There are two joints in the shoulder – the glenohumeral joint (the big ball and socket joint) and the acromioclavicular joint, or AC joint. Either of these shoulder joints can develop arthritis.

How Can I Tell If I Have Shoulder Arthritis?

The most common symptom of shoulder arthritis is shoulder pain. Most people with shoulder arthritis experience the pain when using the shoulder – while lifting, carrying, or during and after exercise. As the arthritis worsens, you may begin to experience pain even when you are not using the shoulder or while you are sleeping. In the most severe instances, the pain can radiate down into the arm and wrist and even make your elbow sore. Some people feel or hear cracking sounds when they move their shoulders.

Why Did My Shoulder Arthritis Develop?

Because shoulder arthritis is caused by the wearing away of the cartilage that helps the joint move smoothly, it can be caused by aging and wear and tear (osteoarthritis), injury, or rheumatoid arthritis (an inflammatory arthritis not related to cartilage loss). Some people experience shoulder arthritis as a result of a serious rotator cuff tear.

Diagnosing and Treating Shoulder Arthritis

Diagnosing shoulder arthritis requires a physical exam and medical history. Your physician will also take an x-ray to determine the amount of cartilage loss in the socket. You may also need to have a CT scan. Initial treatment of shoulder arthritis is focused on minimally invasive treatments: range of motion exercises, physical therapy, lifestyle modifications (losing weight, avoiding activities that aggravate the shoulder joint). Pain management – ice packs, NSAIDs, heat therapy – can all be used to manage pain, minimize inflammation, and prolong the use of the shoulder.

Do I Need Shoulder Surgery for Shoulder Arthritis?

If less invasive treatments do not satisfactorily resolve your pain, or if you are suffering from a reduction in quality of life from your inability to do the things you enjoy doing, surgery, such as arthroscopy and open shoulder surgery can help alleviate shoulder arthritis pain. Platelet-rich plasma therapy may also be used to help promote healing, alleviate pain, and enhance recovery time.

If you are experiencing symptoms of shoulder arthritis, a consultation with an orthopedic specialist may be the first step towards diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Dr. Burrus is an experienced fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon who is dedicated to providing high-quality, specialized holistic care. Call 512.477.6341 or fill out the form on this page to schedule an appointment.