Shoulder Arthritis Causes and Treatment Options

By Dr. Brent Wells


We tend to think of shoulder arthritis as a condition affecting older people. However, shoulder arthritis is increasingly common in younger people. Even twenty-somethings who work out and lift weights can find themselves with a shoulder dislocation or fracture that can eventually lead to shoulder arthritis. Whether you’re young or old, you can suffer from shoulder arthritis and its disruptive symptoms.

What’s shoulder arthritis?
Simply said, shoulder arthritis is when your joints become inflamed, causing pain and stiffness. This happens when the cartilage around your joints wears down and makes movement over the bone painful. While shoulder arthritis isn’t as common as in other parts of the body, it can be extremely uncomfortable and debilitating.

How does wear and tear of the shoulder joint happen?
Wear and tear of your shoulder happens in two main joints. The first is the glenohumeral joint. This is a ball-and-socket joint in which the head of the upper arm fits into the cavity of the shoulder blade. The second is the acromioclavicular joint. This joint is formed by the meeting of the collarbone with the top of the scapula. Osteoarthritis, a major cause of shoulder arthritis, is most commonly found in this second joint. Cartilage located on the ends of these bones generally allows for movement of the arm in the socket without friction, but a loss of cartilage here can cause the bones to rub against each other.

What are the symptoms of shoulder arthritis?
The main symptom of shoulder arthritis is steadily worsening pain, especially when the arm is moved. However, patients with this condition are also likely to experience considerable stiffness in the joint and weakness at the shoulder. Sleeping may become difficult as the condition worsens, especially on the most affected side. In addition, those with shoulder arthritis may experience:
Limited range of motion
Swelling and tenderness of the joint
Grinding sensation at the joint

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor or chiropractor.

What causes shoulder arthritis?
Shoulder arthritis may be caused by several different conditions. Some of them are more common in older people, but they can affect younger people as well. Causes include:

Osteoarthritis: This is the degenerative wearing of cartilage, especially at the acromioclavicular joint.
Loss of cartilage through acute traumatic injury: This loss of cartilage can happen from a car accident or even a sports-related injury. Any time the shoulder has been dislocated, fractured or infected, you’re more prone to shoulder arthritis. In particular, shoulder arthritis is common when there’s been a tear to the rotator cuff.

Rheumatoid arthritis: This is an inflammatory autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own cartilage. In turn, this makes the joint exposed and prone to pain when in contact with bone.

Genetic predisposition: Finally, there’s a genetic predisposition to shoulder arthritis, which means it tends to run in families.

As you may have guessed, both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are more prevalent in older people (osteoarthritis in particular tends to occur in those over age 50). It’s not surprising that the overall incidence of shoulder arthritis is increasing as the general population ages.

How do you treat shoulder arthritis?
Generally speaking, management of shoulder arthritis is non-surgical. At first, your doctor may prescribe only rest from shoulder movement. This means your shoulder will stay immobilized so it can heal and repair. You may also be recommended other treatment options, such as:

Modifying shoulder movements to minimize irritation:
This goes hand-in-hand with shoulder rest. By making sure to avoid painful movements, you’ll let your shoulder repair.

Targeted exercise programs to increase shoulder mobility: A physical therapist or chiropractor can help you put together a series of exercises that will help your shoulder stay mobile and pain-free.

Heat and ice treatment: Hot and cold therapy is great for getting pain relief when your shoulder arthritis acts up.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): In case of persistent pain, your doctor may also recommend anti-inflammatory drugs to ease pain.

Nutritional supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin, both of which build cartilage and can slow joint degeneration: Studies show that supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin may help your pain. Talk to your doctor about whether they’re right for your situation.

Corticosteroid injections and other medications may be used in the case of rheumatoid arthritis: If you have rheumatoid arthritis, cortisone injections may help reduce inflammation and pain.

Chiropractic care: Chiropractic care is great for both pain relief and increased mobility. Regular chiropractic sessions can also be preventative of future arthritis.

Natural Supplements
You can also opt to add natural supplements to help treat shoulder arthritis. It is always a good idea to add in a supplement that is specifically targeted to your condition. Natural supplements come with little to no side effects and are much safer than medication and strong prescription drugs. Flexicose is an all-natural liquid you can take on a daily basis to help manage joint pain, aches, arthritis, and more.

Flexicose is made from powerful natural ingredients such as glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, and Hyaluronic Acid, all of which help target joint issues and arthritis. The liquid form is easy to take any time during the day and it is always free from artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners.

This product can be used in place of NSAIDs and prescription medications as well. In fact, one study found that the combination of glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM is just as effective as Celebrex, a strong prescription medication, that comes with a host of unpleasant side effects and dangers. Natural products can help manage pain and arthritis and have you feeling like yourself again in no time.

In cases when these non-surgical options don’t work, surgery may be necessary. The surgical option is a last resort when it comes to shoulder arthritis. Surgery for shoulder arthritis can help to reduce pain and improve motion if non-surgical treatments are no longer working. Glenohumeral surgery consists of either replacing just the head of the humerus with a prosthesis, or replacing the entire joint (both the humeral head and glenoid cavity, a total shoulder arthroplasty). These options should only be considered in extreme circumstances.

How can chiropractic care help shoulder arthritis?
The National Arthritis Foundation reports that regular chiropractic care can help prevent the damage caused by arthritis. Chiropractic treatment can help reduce pain and restore movement and increase range of motion in the shoulder joint.

Specifically, chiropractic care is designed and customized to every specific patient. By strengthening the shoulder joint with certain exercises, as well as restoring position and mobility with therapeutic touch, a regular chiropractic session can greatly improve shoulder arthritis in the long run.

Contact a chiropractor near you
If you’re suffering from shoulder pain, contact us at Better Health in Anchorage or visit your local chiropractor today. Whether you’re old or young, have an injury or osteoarthritis, an expert chiropractor can look at the bigger picture and suggest a physical therapy regime, as well as home exercises and an anti-inflammatory diet that’s right for you. Get your shoulder back in shape!

About Dr. Brent Wells

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. is the author of over 700+ online articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe and Lifehack. These articles include various types of information about how you can live a healthy and happy life. He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998. Dr. Wells has been a chiropractor for over 20 years and has treated thousands of patients who suffer from varying problems. He continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.

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