As many as 20% of middle-aged and older men and women suffer from shoulder arthritis, a common location for pain, inflammation, and other arthritis symptoms. In fact, in patients who seek medical care for shoulder complaints, arthritis is the primary cause in about 17% of those patients.
Like other types of osteoarthritis, shoulder arthritis becomes more common with age, as wear and tear take their toll on the joint’s protective cartilage layer, causing inflammation, pain, and shoulder stiffness. Because arthritis is a degenerative disease, it tends to get worse as we get older. Finding treatment early is especially important for feeling better and slowing the course of joint damage.
As an orthopedic doctor and a sports medicine specialist, J. Michael Bennett, MD, sees many patients with chronic shoulder pain due to arthritis. That includes older men and women and younger athletes who put a lot of strain on their shoulder joints.
At his offices in Sugar Land and Houston, Texas, Dr. Bennett offers cutting-edge treatment options to relieve shoulder pain and restore normal joint function. Here’s how he can help you.
How arthritis affects your shoulder
There are more than 100 types of arthritic conditions, but by far, the most common type is osteoarthritis or OA. This is the type of arthritis that’s caused by repetitive wear and tear on the shoulder joint.
Typically, extra movement and strain inside the joint begin to wear away the protective layer of cartilage that lines your joints. Your cartilage layer is designed to protect your shoulder joint and facilitate smooth joint movement. But as the cartilage wears away, the joint is exposed to increasing amounts of friction, leading to inflammation, pain, and stiffness.
Arthritis can also lead to the development of bone spurs. These hard, bony growths form along the edges of the joint — typically the socket portion. As the joint moves, the bone spurs “catch” or rub against the joint’s soft tissues, increasing painful inflammation.
Some people with shoulder arthritis have rheumatoid arthritis, a less common type of arthritis that happens when your immune system attacks healthy joint tissue. Arthritis can also develop after a traumatic injury or due to poor blood supply to the shoulder joint tissues (avascular necrosis).
Treating shoulder arthritis
Before prescribing any treatment, Dr. Bennett performs a thorough examination of your shoulder, usually including diagnostic imaging of the joint. Depending on your symptoms, he may order lab tests, as well.
Once he confirms the diagnosis of osteoarthritis, he begins shoulder treatment with conservative options, like:
- Activity modification
- Physical therapy
- Hot and cold therapy
- Medicines to relieve inflammation
Based on the severity of your symptoms, he may recommend corticosteroid injections to relieve inflammation, pain, and stiffness. Routinely used for soft tissue injuries, like rotator cuff tears, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections may also be considered for shoulder arthritis.
When conservative treatment options fail to provide you with the long-term relief you’re looking for, Dr. Bennett will discuss another option: shoulder surgery. There are two surgical options for shoulder arthritis:
- Shoulder arthroscopy to “clean up” joint surfaces
- Shoulder arthroplasty to replace the damaged joint
The type of surgery he recommends will depend on the severity of your symptoms, the type and extent of the joint damage you have, and other factors.
Help for your shoulder pain
Shoulder arthritis can happen in different ways and cause different symptoms, too. The best way to find long-lasting, meaningful relief is to see Dr. Bennett as soon as possible. In addition to helping you feel better faster, early treatment may also slow the progression of the disease and prevent severe damage to your shoulder joint.
Don’t put off seeking care for your sore, stiff shoulder. Book an appointment online or over the phone today, and learn how Dr. Bennett can help.