Five major types of arthritis typically affect the shoulder.
Also known as "wear-and-tear" arthritis, osteoarthritis is a condition that destroys the smooth outer covering (articular cartilage) of bone. As the cartilage wears away, it becomes frayed and rough, and the protective space between the bones decreases. During movement, the bones of the joint rub against each other, causing pain.
Osteoarthritis usually affects people over 50 years of age, but is not unknown in the younger age-group.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic disease that attacks multiple joints throughout the body. It is symmetrical, meaning that it usually affects the same joint on both sides of the body.
Post-injury arthritis is a form of osteoarthritis that develops after an injury, such as a fracture or dislocation of the shoulder.
Rotator cuff arthropathy.
Arthritis can also develop after a large, long-standing rotator cuff tendon tear. The torn rotator cuff can no longer hold the head of the humerus in the glenoid socket, and the humerus can move upward and rub against the acromion. This can damage the surfaces of the bones, causing arthritis to develop.
The combination of a large rotator cuff tear and advanced arthritis can lead to severe pain and weakness, and the patient may not be able to lift the arm away from the side.
Avascular necrosis (AVN) of the shoulder is a painful condition that occurs when the blood supply to the head of the humerus is disrupted. Because bone cells die without a blood supply, AVN can ultimately lead to destruction of the shoulder joint and arthritis.
Causes of AVN include high dose steroid use, heavy alcohol consumption, sickle cell disease, and traumatic injury, such as fractures of the shoulder. In some cases, no cause can be identified; this is refeDrred to as idiopathic AVN.
Pain. The most common symptom of arthritis of the shoulder is pain, which is aggravated by activity and progressively worsens.
If the glenohumeral shoulder joint is affected, the pain is centered in the back of the shoulder and may intensify with changes in the weather. Patients complain of an ache deep in the joint.
The pain of arthritis in the acromioclavicular (AC) joint is focused on the top of the shoulder. This pain can sometimes radiate or travel to the side of the neck.
Someone with rheumatoid arthritis may have pain throughout the shoulder if both the glenohumeral and AC joints are affected.
Limited range of motion. Limited motion is another common symptom. It may become more difficult to lift your arm to comb your hair or reach up to a shelf. You may hear a grinding, clicking, or snapping sound (crepitus) as you move your shoulder.
As the disease progresses, any movement of the shoulder causes pain. Night pain is common and sleeping may be difficult.
As with other arthritic conditions, initial treatment of arthritis of the shoulder is nonsurgical. Your doctor may recommend the following treatment options:
Rest or change in activities to avoid provoking pain.
Physical therapy exercises may improve the range of motion in your shoulder.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, may reduce inflammation and pain.
Corticosteroid injections in the shoulder can dramatically reduce the inflammation and pain.
Ice your shoulder for 20 to 30 minutes two or three times a day to reduce inflammation and ease pain.
Dietary supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate may help relieve pain. (Note: There is little scientific evidence to support the use of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to treat arthritis. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not test dietary supplements. These compounds may cause negative interactions with other medications. Always consult your doctor before taking dietary supplements.)
Your doctor may consider surgery if your pain causes disability and is not relieved with nonsurgical options.
Arthroscopy. Cases of mild glenohumeral arthritis may be treated with arthroscopy, During arthroscopy, the surgeon inserts a small camera, called an arthroscope, into the shoulder joint.
During the procedure, your surgeon can debride (clean out) the inside of the joint. Although the procedure provides pain relief, it will not eliminate the arthritis from the joint. If the arthritis progresses, further surgery may be needed in the future.
Shoulder joint replacement (arthroplasty). Advanced arthritis of the glenohumeral joint can be treated with shoulder replacement surgery, in which the damaged parts of the shoulder are removed and replaced with artificial components, called a prosthesis.
Replacement surgery options include:
Hemiarthroplasty. Just the head of the humerus is replaced by an artificial component.
Total shoulder arthroplasty. Both the head of the humerus and the glenoid are replaced. A plastic "cup" is fitted into the glenoid, and a metal "ball" is attached to the top of the humerus.
Reverse total shoulder arthroplasty. In a reverse total shoulder replacement, the socket and metal ball are opposite a conventional total shoulder arthroplasty. The metal ball is fixed to the glenoid and the plastic cup is fixed to the upper end of the humerus. A reverse total shoulder replacement works better for people with cuff tear arthropathy because it relies on different muscles — not the rotator cuff — to move the arm.
Recovery. Surgical treatment of arthritis of the shoulder is generally very effective in reducing pain and restoring motion. Recovery time and rehabilitation plans depend upon the type of surgery performed.
Complications. As with all surgeries, there are some risks and possible complications. Potential problems after shoulder surgery include infection, excessive bleeding, blood clots, and damage to blood vessels or nerves.
Your surgeon will discuss the possible complications with you before your operation.
Dr Vinod Kumar Abu Dhabi
Shoulder Surgeon Abu Dhabi
NMC Royal Hospital
© 2013 by Shoulder-Surgeon. All rights reserved.
The treatments described are for information and educational purposes only. This is not to be taken as medical advice and they are in no way intended to replace a consultation with your doctor.