Arthritis, shoulder

What is shoulder arthritis?

Arthritis, stated simply, is jont inflammation. There are many types of shoulder arthritis, including osteoarthritis (wear and tear) and rheumatoid arthritis (autoimmune). This inflammation results in damage to the shiny white articular cartilage ends of the bone. This smooth white surface is responsible for low friction, painless contact between joint surfaces. When this surface becomes damaged, painful, stiff, creaking or noisy joints may result.

What causes shoulder arthritis?

Shoulder arthritis may be due to wear and tear, it may have a hereditary component, may result from injury (post-traumatic arthritis) or it may result from an auto-immune process in which the body attacks its own joint tissues.

How is shoulder arthritis diagnosed?

Shoulder arthritis is diagnosed after physical exam and x-ray. X-rays will typically demonstrate the damage to the joint. This is usually seen as joint space narrowing or obliteration and bone spurs. Bloodwork may also need to be performed to diagnose certain types of arthritis.

How is shoulder arthritis treated?

Shoulder arthritis is often managed nonoperatively with medication including non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), limitation of activity, and intermittent steroid ("cortisone") injections.

What happens if surgery is necessary?

In patients in whom non-operative treatment is unsuccessful, shoulder replacement can provide an effective way to obtain pain relief. Shoulder replacement involves replacing the damaged surfaces of bone with an artificial metal and plastic joint.


Further Reading

Gone fishing after shoulder replacement

The best part of my work is seeing that shoulder surgery can truly improve someone's quality of life. Although many patients express gratitude in person when I see them in the office, I wanted to share a letter I recently received that made my day. I really appreciate that my patient took the time to write, and I hope it helps others who are apprehensive about the thought of shoulder replacement.

"Dear Dr. Burns,

The difference between anatomic and reverse shoulder replacement

Lots of patients are a little confused about the 2 main types of shoulder replacements, anatomic and reverse shoulder replacement. Check out this video to learn more.

Experience Matters

Many people wonder how much experience matters when selecting a surgeon. Almost every advice column (including this one, 10 questions to ask your surgeon) puts surgeon experience near the top of the list. It is difficult to judge how much experience is adequate for a particular procedure. However, when it comes to shoulder replacement, there have been a few studies that try to measure how much experience is enough when evaluating a surgeon.