Shoulder Arthritis

The shoulder joint surfaces are covered by articular cartilage and the joint has a small amount of lubricating fluid.  This allows the joint to move effortlessly with over 100 times less friction than ice moving on ice.   

As we get older it is common to develop some wear and tear to your joint cartilage.  As the cartilage continues to wear, the joint becomes more inflamed and movement becomes less.  

With worsening arthritis, the pain can get so bad that it interferes with your life.  Pain killers may not help anymore and you struggle to do simple activities such as getting something from your back pocket or brushing your hair.  It can also wake you up at night or prevent you from going to sleep.

What are the causes?

For most people there is no obvious cause why the arthritis develops.  Factors such as manual work, family history and previous trauma can all contribute.  Some patients may have rheumatoid arthritis but most of the time it just happens.

What are the symptoms?

Most patients will complain of pain and stiffness in their shoulder.  The pain will usually worsen the more you use the shoulder and can be associated with grinding or locking of the joint.  The pain may keep you awake at night.

How is it diagnosed?

Your surgeon can usually make the diagnosis by asking about the symptoms you have and examining your shoulder.  An X-ray will usually confirm the diagnosis.  

How is it treated?

Arthritis usually worsens over a period of time and so can be managed in the initial phases with physiotherapy and painkillers.  Injections can also help for short term relief.  If symptoms are not controlled by these measures then a total shoulder replacement should be considered.  If the arthritis is associated with a failure of the rotator cuff muscles that surround the shoulder a reverse total shoulder replacement is performed.