Arthritis is a common condition that can affect people of all ages, and if left unaddressed or untreated, it can become debilitating. Shoulder arthritis, in particular, is known to take athletes out of the game and affect a person’s ability to go about their normal daily activities, from getting dressed to reaching for something in a cabinet. Luckily, there are many treatment options available.
In this month’s blog post, we’ll be answering your questions about shoulder arthritis, including what it is, how it’s most often treated, and when surgery is necessary.
Understanding Shoulder Arthritis
The shoulder is made up of two joints, though it is arthritis of the “glenohumeral” ball-and-socket joint that we’ll be discussing here. Arthritis in this joint is typically the result of damage from normal wear and tear, also known as osteoarthritis. With osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, the protective cartilage that cushions the bones gradually wears away. This can be very uncomfortable, commonly leading to pain, inflammation, and stiffness.
However, shoulder arthritis can also be the result of a disease. Rheumatoid arthritis, for instance, is an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to attack parts of the body, especially the joints. This in turn causes severe inflammation, which can damage the joint further without treatment.
Though rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis typically develop over a long period of time, arthritis can also develop quickly as the result of an injury—this type is called post-traumatic arthritis. Post-traumatic arthritis in the shoulder is typically caused by a fracture, dislocation, or repetitive partial dislocation of the ball-and-socket joint. This trauma then causes inflammation, which in turn can lead to an accelerated form of arthritis that ultimately can lead to the need for surgery.
No matter the cause, shoulder arthritis can be very painful and significantly affect a person’s quality of life, making diagnosis and treatment critical.
Signs & Symptoms
The most common symptoms of shoulder arthritis are pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joint. A person experiencing these symptoms may find it difficult to move their arm and do everyday tasks. Additional symptoms may include:
- A feeling of instability or looseness in the shoulder
- Cacking or popping noises when moving the arm
- Loss of range of motion in the shoulder joint
- Pain when lifting or carrying objects
- Tenderness or warmth in the shoulder area
Nonsurgical Treatment Options
There are many nonsurgical treatment options available for shoulder arthritis. Depending on the severity of your condition and your individual needs, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatments:
- Medications: Oral pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications, as well as corticosteroid injections, can help decrease inflammation and pain.
- Orthobiologics:, also known as autologous conditioned plasma (ACP) therapy, is a kind of that utilizes a patient’s own healing compounds found in their blood. After spinning a sample of the patient’s blood in a centrifuge, the platelet layer is harvested and then injected into the patient’s affected joint. Studies have shown that this therapy can reduce inflammation and pain following a series of three injections.
- Physical therapy: A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help improve your range of motion and strengthen the muscles around the joint. Additionally, they may use heat or ice packs, massage, and other treatments to help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Bracing or splinting: A brace or splint can help stabilize the shoulder joint and reduce pain and inflammation.
Treating Shoulder Arthritis With Surgery
In some cases, shoulder arthritis is so severe that nonsurgical treatment options are not effective. For example, if the joint is severely damaged, has significant loss of range of motion, or causes a great deal of pain and disability, . This may be the case if your arthritis is more advanced, or if your post-traumatic arthritis has become a chronic condition.
You rely on your shoulders to help you complete a range of tasks and activities throughout the day, if you require surgery on your shoulder for your arthritis, it’s important to reach out to an expert. The shoulder is a complex joint, but an orthopedic surgeon like , who specializes in minimally invasive surgical procedures, can help restore function in your shoulder and relieve your pain.
If you’re looking to schedule with an orthopedic doctor in the Pittsburgh area, look no further! Whether you’re seeking surgery for shoulder arthritis, searching for a sports medicine specialist, or trying to find expert pain relief from an injury or issue, Dr. Rytel can help. with Rytel Sports Medicine today to get the care you’ve been looking for.