Shoulder Arthritis


What is shoulder arthritis?

Arthritis refers to any condition where there is bone-on-bone or loss of the cartilage between the bones. Cartilage is the smooth covering on the ends of the bones that helps the joint glide and move easier without pain. In a patient with shoulder arthritis, the articular cartilage has become worn or damaged, and can cause chronic pain and loss of movement.


What are the most common types of shoulder arthritis? 

  • Osteoarthritis – A degenerative condition that is most common among patients over the age of 50. It is commonly referred to as “wear-and-tear” arthritis because the smooth outer coverage (articular cartilage) is essentially destroyed. This causes the bones of the shoulder to rub together during movement, causing chronic inflammation and pain.
  • Post-Traumatic Arthritis – A form of osteoarthritis that develops after a traumatic injury, such as a fracture or dislocation of the shoulder. This type of arthritis can also develop from a chronic rotator cuff tear if left untreated
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis – An autoimmune, inflammatory condition of the joint lining. This arthritis can affect a person of any age and usually affects multiple joints on both sides of the body.


What are the symptoms of shoulder arthritis? 

The most common symptom associated with arthritis of the shoulder is pain. Arthritis-related shoulder pain can range from instances of long, mild pain, to periods of intense, sharp shoulder pain. The pain is almost always intensified and aggravated by activity and progressively worsens. Other common symptoms include:

  • Limited range of motion
  • Weakness of the arm and shoulder
  • Stiffness in the joint
  • Difficulty lifting or moving the arm, especially overhead
  • Mechanical symptoms such as clicking, popping, or grinding
  • Night pain and difficulty sleeping


How is shoulder arthritis treated?

There are several treatment options for shoulder arthritis, and many patients can manage their symptoms for years with simple conservative measures including rest, activity modification, anti-inflammatory medications, and cortisone injections. Physical therapy exercises may also help to preserve motion and strength. 

For those with severe degeneration of the shoulder joint cartilage and whose pain and mobility continue to worsen, Dr. Potts may recommend shoulder replacement surgery. These procedures include:

  • Total Shoulder Arthroplasty(TSA) – This is a shoulder joint replacement surgery that involves removing damaged bone and tissue and replacing the ball-and-socket surfaces of the shoulder with artificial pieces or prosthesis. TSA is considered the most reliable surgical option for relieving debilitating shoulder arthritis, but it is not typically used in younger patients who want to remain very active or in those who have damaged rotator cuff muscles.
  • Reverse Total Shoulder Arthroplasty (RTSA) – During a reverse shoulder replacement, Dr. Potts switches, or reverses, the positions of the shoulder joint's ball-and-socket joint. The “ball” is replaced with a socket-shaped prosthetic, while the shoulder's natural “socket” is fitted with a prosthetic ball. This surgery is an option for those with damaged rotator cuffs, which makes them ineligible for traditional shoulder replacement. This procedure changes the center of rotation of the joint and allows other muscles to compensate for the lack of rotator cuff function.
  • Hemiarthroplasty– Also known as a partial shoulder replacement, a hemiarthroplasty involves replacing the humerus head with a prosthetic ball while the shoulder joint is left more or less intact.