Shoulder Arthritis



Normal Shoulder

In the normal shoulder (glenohumeral joint), motion occurs across smooth surfaces lined with cartilage.  As seen on the X-ray to the right, the normal shoulder has smooth surfaces lined with cartilage that cushions the impact between the bones and provides a smooth gliding surface for movement. 

The smooth cartilage surfaces of a normal shoulder can be seen clearly on the arthroscopic picture seen on the left.


Arthritic Shoulder

Arthritis of the shoulder develops as cartilage is broken down.  This results in a loss of the smooth surfaces of the joint.  The joint space seen on X-ray decreases until bone is moving on bone.  Bone spurs may develop during this process.  The irregular surfaces of an arthritic shoulder can be seen clearly on the arthroscopic picture seen on the right.


As shoulder arthritis develops, patients experience pain that gets worse with time, increases with activity, and interferes with sleep.  Range of motion decreases, and atrophy (wasting) of the muscles around the shoulder worsens.  The shoulder may swell, click, pop, and crunch.  It may be tender to touch.   Activities of daily living begin to become affected, as patients have difficulty with dressing, grooming, bathing, and even eating.


Non-Operative Treatment


Typically, non-operative treatments are used initially, including activity modification, anti-inflammatory medication, cortisone injections, and sometimes physical therapy.  The goal of physical therapy is to attempt to maintain range of motion.  Strengthening exercise can be painful.


Operative Treatment


Patients with shoulder arthritis have two surgical options: arthroscopic debridement or shoulder replacement.  Arthroscopic surgery does not reverse the arthritic process, but often has the ability to provide pain relief for a period of time.  Shoulder replacement surgery is the most reliable surgery for improving pain and return of function for the arthritic shoulder.

“...between the years 1997 and 2005 the number of shoulder arthroplasties or total shoulder replacements increased by 145%”

--US Dept of Health & Human Servuces

“...we estimate that the number of patients [who will undergo shoulder replacement] in 2007 increased to 20,300.  By the end of 2020, we expect to see the number of patients undergoing shoulder replacement to increase to around 63,500.

--Orthopaedics This Week, 3/18/2008

Holy Cross Orthopaedic Institute

5597 North Dixie Highway

Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33334

Phone: (954) 958-4800

Fax: (954) 958-4899