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Shoulder Arthritis Additional Information


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?

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 the severity 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?

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 manufacturer’s 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.

What are the surgical options for shoulder arthritis?

Total Shoulder Replacement

A shoulder arthroplasty is the surgical treatment for shoulder arthritis. This is also called a “shoulder replacement.” This procedure is similar to a knee replacement, or hip replacement, which are common operations performed for arthritis of the knee and hip.

When a total shoulder replacement is performed the rough surfaces of the ball (humeral head) and socket (glenoid) are replaced with a smooth metal ball (humeral head) and plastic socket (glenoid).

This operation tends to be extremely successful for decreasing pain and also can increase the shoulder’s range of motion. This operation has been performed for over 60 years and has a proven track record of success. For more information, please refer to the x-rays below and our Total Shoulder Replacement pre-op packet.

Please watch the youtube video below for more information on how a Total Shoulder Arthroplasty is performed.

Front to back x-ray showing a loss of joint space about the shoulder joint. This indicates end stage osteoarthritis of the shoulder joint.

Top to bottom x-ray of the shoulder with joint space loss of the ball and socket. This indicates end stage osteoarthritis of the shoulder.

Total Shoulder Replacement (post-op) indicating a new cobalt-chrome humeral head and plastic socket (not-seen via x-ray) with excellent restored joint space.

Total Shoulder Replacement (post-op) indicating a new cobalt-chrome humeral head and plastic socket (not-seen via x-ray) with excellent restored joint space.

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