What is the Best Treatment for Arthritis in the Shoulder: Effective Strategies Explored

Dealing with shoulder arthritis can be challenging, but identifying the best treatment shouldn’t be. Whether you’re seeking immediate pain relief or a long-term solution, understanding your options is key. This post directly tackles the question: ‘What is the best treatment for arthritis in the shoulder?’ by presenting effective treatments tailored to your unique situation. From non-invasive therapies that ease daily discomfort to surgical options for chronic cases, prepare to discover the path to your shoulder relief.

Key Takeaways

  • Shoulder arthritis is characterized by inflammation causing pain and stiffness, with different types requiring unique treatment approaches, and early detection is crucial for effective management.
  • Accurate diagnosis of shoulder arthritis involves physical examination and imaging tests, which inform personalized treatment plans that may include both non-surgical interventions and surgical options.
  • Progress in medical technology enhances shoulder arthritis treatment, exemplified by innovations like the InSet™ Glenoid Implant, improving surgical outcomes and offering hope to those affected by the condition.

Understanding Shoulder Arthritis and Its Impact

Shoulder arthritis is a condition characterized by inflammation in the shoulder joint, causing pain and stiffness. There are various types of arthritis that can affect the shoulder, including osteoarthritis of the shoulder, which involves cartilage degeneration and joint narrowing, primarily affecting individuals over 60. Other types include rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory autoimmune disorder that affects the joint lining and cartilage; rotator cuff tear arthropathy, which occurs when a rotator cuff tear leads to arthritis in the shoulder joint; and post-traumatic arthritis, which develops after an injury or trauma to the shoulder joint.

Each type presents unique challenges and may require different treatment approaches.

The shoulder arthritis symptoms can include:

  • Activity-induced pain
  • Loss of sleep due to difficulty finding a comfortable position
  • Rest pain
  • Stiffness
  • Diminished range of motion

These symptoms can limit your ability to perform daily activities. For instance, post-traumatic arthritis, a form of degenerative joint disease, can cause persistent pain, contributing to the debilitating nature of the condition.

Recognizing the symptoms of different types of shoulder arthritis is the initial step towards effective management. Early detection and professional consultation can halt the disease’s progression, thereby preserving your quality of life.

Diagnosing Shoulder Arthritis: The First Step to Treatment

The first step towards conquering shoulder arthritis is obtaining a shoulder arthritis diagnosis. The orthopedic surgeon will:

  • Evaluate your shoulder’s range of motion
  • Listen for any abnormal sounds in the joint
  • Delve into your medical and family history during the physical examination

This evaluation ensures an accurate diagnosis of shoulder arthritis, which may involve the upper arm bone, setting the foundation for successful treatment.

In addition to the physical examination, imaging tests like X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs may be necessary. X-rays can reveal joint space narrowing, bone changes, and bone spurs indicative of arthritis. If more detail about the bone and surrounding tissues is needed, CT and MRI scans are used. These diagnostic methods provide a comprehensive view of your shoulder joint, allowing your orthopedic surgeon to devise a personalized treatment plan that addresses your unique needs.

Non-Surgical Interventions for Shoulder Pain Relief

For those diagnosed with shoulder arthritis, it’s worth noting that a variety of non-surgical treatments can help manage the condition. These treatments aim to manage pain, improve joint function, and slow down the progression of the disease. They offer hope to those seeking relief without surgery.

Non-surgical treatments for treating shoulder arthritis include:

  • Medication, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, and PRP may be able to provide short-term relief for shoulder pain
  • Physical therapy, which helps maintain movement and manage pain
  • Lifestyle changes, such as increased physical activity and weight management, which can relieve pain and improve joint function

Let’s delve deeper into these treatment methods.

Physical Therapy and Exercise

Physical therapy is integral to the non-surgical management of shoulder arthritis. Through a series of exercises, physical therapy can reduce shoulder pain and stiffness, stretch and strengthen the muscles supporting the shoulder joint, and increase range of motion.

There are several shoulder exercises that can improve your range of motion and flexibility. Some of these exercises include:

  • Shoulder elevation stretches
  • Outward rotation stretches
  • Shoulder blade rotations
  • Door lean exercise

Practicing these exercises regularly can significantly enhance your quality of life, helping you reclaim your freedom of movement.

Medications and Injections

Medications and injections can provide temporary pain relief for severe shoulder arthritis. For instance, cortisone injections and hyaluronic acid can be administered into the shoulder to alleviate severe pain from osteoarthritis. In addition to injections, oral pain medications can provide temporary relief from the pain associated with shoulder arthritis.

PRP injections for earlier stages of shoulder osteoarthritis may be beneficial for the right patients. You’ll want to consider any Orthopedic PRP treatments only after a thorough discussion of potential risks and benefits with a healthcare professional.

Ultimately, the goal of these treatments is to provide pain relief, manage pain, and improve joint function, making daily activities less of a struggle.

When to Consider Shoulder Replacement Surgery

While non-surgical treatments can effectively manage shoulder arthritis for many, there are cases where these interventions might not provide sufficient relief. In such scenarios, shoulder replacement surgery becomes a considerable option. Shoulder replacement surgery should be considered when you have persistent severe pain and disability from arthritis that impairs sleep and daily activities, and when non-surgical treatments have failed.

Surgical treatments for shoulder arthritis vary from arthroscopic interventions to total shoulder replacement, or reverse shoulder replacement, depending on the patient’s condition and surgical expertise. These procedures aim to alleviate pain and improve range of motion, offering a potential solution for those struggling with severe shoulder arthritis.

Total Shoulder Joint Replacement

Total shoulder replacement surgery is a procedure that replaces both the humeral head and the glenoid with prosthetic components to recreate the glenohumeral joint surfaces. It’s primarily indicated for:

  • Glenohumeral arthritis
  • Inflammatory arthropathy
  • Posttraumatic arthritis
  • Certain fracture scenarios

The main goals of total shoulder replacement are pain relief and improvement in range of motion and function.

Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement

Reverse total shoulder replacement is a procedure that involves reversing the shoulder’s normal anatomy by affixing a metal ball to the shoulder socket and placing a plastic cup on the humerus. This procedure is specifically designed for patients with severe rotator cuff damage, including issues with their rotator cuff tendons, helping them use the deltoid muscle to move the shoulder and arm more effectively.

Patients can typically expect the following benefits after having a Reverse Shoulder:

  • Pain relief
  • Improved range of motion, although the improvement can vary
  • Ability to reach overhead, although there may be limitations in outward movement

Postoperative Care: Maximizing Recovery After Shoulder Surgery

Proper postoperative care is a key factor in ensuring a successful recovery after shoulder surgery. It involves:

  • Managing shoulder pain with medication
  • Receiving antibiotics to prevent infection
  • Embarking on a rehabilitation program that includes physical therapy to improve or maintain motion and foster improvements in strength.

Recovery is a process that requires patience and active participation. You can expect to return to performing light daily activities about two to six weeks following shoulder replacement surgery. Your commitment to your recovery program can significantly influence your surgery’s success, helping you regain your shoulder’s strength and range of movement.

Immediate Post-Surgery Recovery

Immediately after surgery, you will be required to use a sling full-time for the first week, including while sleeping, and for 4 to 6 weeks after surgery to limit shoulder motion and allow tendons to heal. Pain management is crucial during this phase with the help of prescribed medications.

In addition to managing pain, wound care is an essential part of immediate post-surgery recovery. Dressings should be kept clean and dry for three days post-surgery, after which patients can remove them and are allowed to shower. Following these guidelines can help minimize the risk of infection, ensuring a smooth recovery.

Long-Term Rehabilitation Strategies

Long-term rehabilitation is a crucial component of the recovery process after shoulder surgery. Healing and recovery progress through distinct phases, including tendon healing and shoulder strengthening over a six-month period.

Physical therapy usually begins a few days post-surgery, with patients starting with prescribed passive exercises to reduce pain and swelling. As the healing progresses, active movements and possibly weights are introduced during physical therapy.

Patients usually start strengthening exercises around three months after surgery. Adherence to these exercises can significantly enhance your recovery, helping you regain strength and functionality in your shoulder.

Innovations in Shoulder Arthritis Treatment

As medical technology continues to advance in the shoulder, so does the treatment of shoulder arthritis, including the InSet™ Shoulder Implants. These advancements provide new hope for individuals suffering from shoulder arthritis and transform the landscape of arthritis treatment. In the future, shoulder pain doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of life.


From understanding the complexity of shoulder arthritis to exploring the array of treatments available, we’ve journeyed through the multifaceted world of arthritis care. Whether you’re considering non-surgical interventions or contemplating surgery, remember that there’s a solution tailored to your unique needs. So, don’t let shoulder pain hold you back; take control of your health and reclaim your freedom of movement.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is shoulder arthritis?

Shoulder arthritis is characterized by inflammation in the shoulder joint causing pain and stiffness, with major types including osteoarthritis, inflammatory arthritis, rotator cuff tear arthropathy, and post-traumatic arthritis. It’s important to seek medical advice for proper diagnosis and treatment.

How is shoulder arthritis diagnosed?

Shoulder arthritis is diagnosed through a physical examination, medical history evaluation, and imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs to assess joint space narrowing and bone changes. These help in confirming the condition and its severity.

What are the non-surgical treatments for shoulder arthritis?

Non-surgical treatments for shoulder arthritis include NSAIDs or corticosteroids, physical therapy, PRP injections, and lifestyle changes such as increased physical activity and weight management.

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Orthopedic surgeon near Folsom, CA

Dr. Kyle McClintock

Dr. Kyle McClintock, an Orthopedic Surgeon with practices in Roseville and Folsom, specializes in the shoulder and elbow, aiding patients in resuming their daily activities.

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