Shoulder Osteoarthritis

How it happens

Arthritis may be due to chronic degeneration over time, which may be partly genetic in origin. It may also occur due to chronic repetitive trauma or a previous injury.

How it feels

Osteoarthritis of the shoulder can be a very painful condition. The pain is usually felt as a deep, boring pain in the shoulder and is usually localized deep in the shoulder joint. Arthritis pain is often improved with the use of medication such as Tylenol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Advanced osteoarthritis of the shoulder will generally not respond to physical therapy, since end ranges of motion will usually worsen the pain. Arthritis of the shoulder is diagnosed by plain x-rays. MRI is generally not required to diagnose this condition.

How it is fixed

If the shoulder arthritis is mild, or not very severe, it can be treated with medications such as Tylenol or anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen. Cortisone injections may be helpful. If the arthritis is very severe and limiting daily activities and/or limiting the ability to sleep due to pain, surgery may be appropriate. Shoulder surgery for advanced arthritis involves replacing the joint. This operation is known as shoulder replacement surgery or total shoulder arthroplasty. Total shoulder replacement surgery involves removing the end of the top of the arm bone and replacing it with a metal component. The socket part of the shoulder joint (or glenoid) is replaced with a small plastic component, which is cemented into place. Shoulder replacement surgery is a very effective operation for reducing pain and improving quality of life. The results of shoulder replacement surgery are similar to the results for hip and knee replacement.


After shoulder replacement surgery, the patient generally remains in hospital for two days. At that the point, they are usually ready to go home. The arm is kept in a sling for six to eight weeks. Physical therapy is started the day after the total shoulder replacement. Total recovery following the surgery takes three to six months until the patient has good use of the arm with limited or no pain.

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