Arthritis in Shoulder

By | Filed under: Shoulder Pain, Arthritis and Back Pain


Arthritis in the Shoulder
Arthritis in the Shoulder

Shoulder Arthritis in the shoulder joints is a common condition that affects many of us over the course of our lives, and like hip arthritis, the shoulder is a common location for the condition.

It is a painful condition, that cannot be easily helped without medical assistance from your doctor or Physiotherapist. However, many people don’t do anything about it until the damage to the joint is severe, making a full resolution of pain and stiffness harder and less likely.

Exercise and pain management is then the key to arthritic should pain relief! So if you are stiff in the shoulder and movement causes you shoulder pain, then best to seek help and get it investigated as early as possible. .

Two main types of Shoulder Arthritis.

The two most common types of arthritic shoulder pain arthritis that I encounter in my physiotherapy practice are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition where the surfaces of the bones making the joint become partially or totally worn away. Osteoarthritis is usually associated with intermittent periods of pain and stiffness. Diagnosed and treated in its early stages can result in a full recovery and a pain free life.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is different to osteoarthritis. It is an inflammatory disease which affects many joints in the body. It is usually associated with swelling, pain and stiffness. It can be structurally damaging to the joints especially if the inflammation is not controlled. Medication is the primary treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. It is usually hereditary but not always.

There are also other lesser known or common forms of shoulder arthritis, and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons have a good web page that discusses the topic. However, in this article I focus on the the two most common. In both types the health of the bones and soft tissues of your shoulder joint are affected. The degree and extent of damage will depend on the severity of your arthritis as well as the way that you manage it!

So, what is the correct management of shoulder arthritis? Well below are my top 8 tips!…

8 Tips on managing Shoulder Arthritis

  1. A correct early diagnosis: is a key to the overall management of shoulder arthritis. If you have a pain in your shoulder then have it investigated. Start with your local doctor and chartered physiotherapist/physical therapist. They will investigate and advise you on the cause of your shoulder pain.

    If they suspect arthritis they will advise an x-ray or scan to confirm this. Blood tests will further confirm the presence of inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis. Early detection is key as left untreated arthritis and inflammation will do further damage to your joint limiting your potential to manage it. Do not delay!

  2. Removing the cause: Sometimes poor posture or movement patterns can be a contributory cause of shoulder arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis. If you have poor posture, then correcting your movement and posture can reduce the detrimental effects of arthritis. Once the cause has been removed the condition has a better chance of repairing itself and the risk of further damage eliminated.

  3. Inflammation control: is an important part of the management of arthritic shoulder pain. For this your doctor or rheumatologist will prescribe the appropriate anti-inflammatory medication. Your physiotherapist/physical therapist will advise you the appropriate ice and heat treatments depending on what stage of arthritis that you are at. Always seek professional advice and do not self medicate!

  4. Pain management: Similar to inflammation control, without good pain management you will not only feel miserable but you will feel unable to to move your shoulder joint well. Movement is a key component in the management of shoulder arthritis but only in a controlled manner. Again always seek professional advice before you attempt exercising your arthritic shoulder

  5. Exercise: With medical care and assist relieve inflammation and pain levels, exercise is the main area in which your chartered physiotherapist/physical therapist can help you with your shoulder arthritis. Specific exercises will be given to you and once you have the correct exercises your diligence to doing them is the important part!

  6. Strength: is where your therapist will teach you exercises to strengthen your shoulder and upper back muscles. If your shoulder muscles are working well, they will help take some load/stresses off your arthritic shoulder joint, allowing it to function better.

  7. Nutrition: is a very interesting area in the management of arthritis. Certain foods appear to worsen inflammation and arthritis and others have been shown to boost the immune system, strengthen bones and fight inflammation. So seek the expert advice of a well qualified nutritionist or talk to your local Arthritis Patient Support or advocacy group such as , as it is a very positive aspect of managing the condition..

  8. Stress management: Living with chronic arthritis can easily add stress to every day living, and can exacerbate pain levels - when we are stressed we tend to tense hunch our shoulders upwards. This puts further pressure on our arthritic shoulder. So it is really important that you manage your stress levels and relax! Find ways to reduce your stress, learn how to accept what you cannot change about your condition and approach the things that you can change and influence as positively and as happily as possible.

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Resources for Arthritis

  • The Arthritis Foundation: The Arthritis Foundation provides a really helpful website full of information and resources, access to optimal care, advancements in science and community connections. They also publish ‘Arthritis Today’, the award-winning magazine that reaches 4.2 million readers

  • Arthritis Research UK A UK based charity that researches the preventing and finding a cure for arthritis, as we’ll as funding research into the lives of those with arthritis.

While the content and materials contained in the articles on this website have been written & researched by Sally Ann Quirke, a professional, practising & fully qualified Chartered Physiotherapist (Physical Therapist) based in Ireland, they are provided for general information and educational purposes only. They do not constitute medical advice on any particular individual situation. Please see your Chartered Physiotherapist or other medical practitioner for full and individual consultation.

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