Do I Have Arthritis in My Shoulder?

Simply defined, arthritis is the inflammation of one or more of your joints. Although there is no cure for arthritis, The Center doctors offer treatment plans to help ease pain and get you back to your favorite activities.

Anatomy of the Shoulder

Your shoulder is made up of three bones: the humerus (upper arm bone), scapula (shoulder blade), and the clavicle (collarbone). There are also two joints in the shoulder. One is located where the clavicle meets the tip of the shoulder blade (acromion), called the acromioclavicular (AC) joint. The other is located where the humerus fits into the scapula, called the glenohumeral joint.

To provide you with the best care, your physician will need to find which joint is affected and what type of arthritis you have.

Types of Arthritis that Affect the Shoulder


This condition is also known as “wear-and-tear” arthritis as it destroys the outer covering of the bone. As the cartilage wears away, it becomes frayed and rough causing the bones to rub against each other and resulting in a lot of pain. Osteoarthritis is most commonly found in people over the age of 50.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Unlike osteoarthritis, which can occur in a single joint, rheumatoid arthritis usually affects the same joint on both sides of the body. RA causes the lining in your joints to swell that results in pain and stiffness in the joint. Known as an autoimmune disease, RA attacks its immune system causing damage to cartilage, ligaments, and softening bone.

Posttraumatic Arthritis

Posttraumatic Arthritis is a form of osteoarthritis caused by a traumatic injury such as a fracture or dislocation of the shoulder.

Rotator Cuff Tear Arthropathy

This can develop from a long-standing rotator cuff tendon tear. The torn rotator cuff can no longer hold the head of the humerus (upper arm bone), causing unwanted friction and ultimately resulting in arthritis.

Avascular Necrosis

Avascular Necrosis (AVN) occurs when a bone’s blood supply is disrupted. The bone cells die, and the dead bone weakens and may begin to fracture and collapse, leading to arthritis.

Symptoms of Shoulder Arthritis

The most common symptom of shoulder arthritis is, of course, pain. This can get progressively worse over time, especially after participating in an activity that aggravates the area.

Another common symptom is having a limited range of motion, as arthritis causes stiffness in your joints.

Treatment Options for Shoulder Arthritis

Nonsurgical Treatment

When a patient is ready to address their arthritis, treatment will first be approached from a nonsurgical standpoint. The orthopedic doctors at The Center have a number of different non-surgical options they will first discuss with their patients and have them try before considering surgical treatment options. These include physical therapy, injections, medication, etc.

Surgical Treatment

Should pain reach the point of disability for a patient and non-surgical treatment is no longer effective, a doctor may recommend surgery to help restore function. As with all surgeries, there are some risks. Your doctor will discuss the possible complications with you before your operation.

Arthroscopy: Your doctor may recommend arthroscopy if your arthritis is unresponsive to non-surgical treatments such as physical therapy, medication, or injections. The surgical instruments used during this procedure are thin so your surgeon can use very small incisions. Pain relief is the main benefit of this procedure, although if it continues, further surgery may be needed.

Arthroplasty: Advanced arthritis can be treated with arthroplasty, in which the damaged parts of the shoulder are replaced. There are several reasons your doctor may recommend a shoulder replacement, such as:

  • Severe shoulder pain that interferes with your daily activities
  • Loss of motion
  • Pain while resting, preventing a good night’s sleep

Advanced anesthesia techniques allow the vast majority of these procedures to occur in surgery centers, rather than in hospitals, going home the same day to recover. Dr. Jacobson, shoulder specialist at The Center, describes the anesthesia and pain management for patients during this procedure. This regimen creates a very smooth, safe, and efficient procedure for patients.