Shoulder Arthritis

by Carol Gomes


The shoulder consists of two joints: one where the collarbone meets the tip of the shoulder bone, and the other where the humerus of the upper arm meets the shoulder blade. Arthritis may affect any of these two joints. The arthritis may also be caused due to osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or post-traumatic arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that generally affects people in their old age. It leads to a degeneration of the articular cartilage that covers and protects the bones of the joint. Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammation of the joint lining and can affect people of any age group. It is caused when the body’s immune system starts attacking healthy cells in the body. Post-traumatic arthritis develops after injuries such as fractures or joint dislocations.

Symptoms

The most common symptom of shoulder arthritis is shoulder pain. Depending on the joint affected, it may occur in the front of the shoulder or in the front. The pain tends to get aggravated when the shoulder is used. The affected shoulder also becomes stiff and it is difficult to raise your arms. There may also be a snapping sound when the shoulder is used. The shoulders also pain at night and may cause difficulty in sleeping.

Physicians diagnose shoulder arthritis based on physical examinations, past medical history, X-rays, and in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, samples of blood and synovial fluid.

Treatment

Treatment is carried out using medication and physical therapy. You may be prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to ease the inflammation. Corticosteroids may also be injected directly into the shoulder joint. Dietary supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate may also be prescribed to alleviate the pain associated with shoulder arthritis. Applying ice packs will also help reduce the inflammation and ease the pain. In case of rheumatoid arthritis, you may also be prescribed disease-modifying drugs such as methotrexate.

Rest and mild physical therapy are also an important part of the treatment process for shoulder arthritis. Stretching exercises will help to strengthen the muscle and ensure that the joint remains flexible. Swimming and aquatic exercises also prove highly beneficial because the water acts as a cushion while the exercise helps the muscles strengthen.

In case these methods do not alleviate your arthritis, there is always the option of going in for surgery. Some of the surgical options include total shoulder arthroplasty, hemiarthroplasty, or resection arthroplasty. Surgical treatment of shoulder arthritis is generally very effective in reducing pain and restoring motion.


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