What is Shoulder Arthritis?

Shoulder arthritis is a very common condition that causes pain, stiffness, or a grinding sensation in the shoulder. Some patients may hear a clicking or popping noise, and all symptoms are more noticeable when moving. Arthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions joints becomes damaged.

Normally, when two bones come together inside a joint, they are separated by a layer of tough, smooth cartilage. The cartilage allows the bones to glide across each other, which makes movement easier. Cartilage can be damaged by an injury, by an illness such as rheumatoid arthritis, or by simple wear and tear (osteoarthritis). In the shoulder, the two joints most commonly affected are the AC joint (where the shoulder blade and collarbone connect at the outside edge of the shoulder), and the glenohumeral joint (where the arm bone meets the shoulder blade).

Treatment for shoulder arthritis may include:

  • Ice and rest
  • Exercise and physical therapy
  • Over-the-counter pain medications
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Surgery

Surgical treatments include the removal of inflamed tissue and joint reconstruction. The type of arthritis and severity of the damage will determine which treatment is most appropriate.

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