Shoulder arthritis is a painful condition involving the shoulder joint. It has several names, including Osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease, and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Arthritis can occur in any joint in the body. When it occurs in the shoulder, it results in pain with movement, stiffness (loss of motion), and difficulty with overhead activities. It can also include crunching, popping, and clicking with movement.
How does this happen?
Arthritis involves wearing away the cartilage in joints, and has many contributing factors. It is a normal aging process, and usually gets worse the older we get. It may progress faster with repetitive activities, heavy labor, and normal wear and tear. It also runs in families. How will we know that this is your problem?
The diagnosis of shoulder arthritis is usually made by a combination of your history of when your shoulder hurts, stiffness and pain in the joint on examination, and routine X-rays of the shoulder. Your doctor may also order a CT scan or MRI for additional information, such as to evaluate for bone loss or irregularities of the joint surface.
How can this be treated?
The initial treatment for shoulder arthritis usually involves rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory pain medication (NSAID's). These steps alone may be very beneficial. Cortisone injections and physical therapy may also be helpful. When non-operative measures do not provide relief, then surgery may be necessary. A shoulder replacement (Total shoulder Arthroplasty) can provide excellent pain relief and better range of motion. If you have shoulder arthritis with a large rotator cuff tear, a special prosthesis known as a Reverse Shoulder Replacement may be required.
This is the doctor you want!
Drs. Felix H. (Buddy) Savoie, III, and Michael J. O'Brien practice at the Tulane Institute of Sports Medicine on the Tulane University Uptown Campus. They are fellowship-trained Orthopaedic Surgeons specializing in Shoulder and Upper Extremity conditions and Sports medicine. Dr. Savoie and Dr. O'Brien have performed shoulder replacement surgery through a minimally invasive approach (see 2010 article in Techniques in Shoulder and Elbow Surgery¹). If you have shoulder arthritis and are young, arthroscopic surgery may be option (see 2009 article by Dr. Savoie and Dr. O'Brien in the Journal or Arthroscopy²). Dr. O'Brien has additional fellowship training in the Reverse Shoulder Replacement procedure, setting him apart from other surgeons in the greater New Orleans area.
To read more about shoulder arthritis, click here.