Shoulder Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of shoulder arthritis. Also called wear-and-tear arthritis or degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is characterized by progressive wearing away of the cartilage of the joint. As the protective cartilage is worn away by shoulder arthritis, bare bone is exposed within the joint.

The other type of shoulder arthritis that is not uncommon is rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic condition that causes an inflammation of the lining of a joint. This inflammation can, over time, invade and destroy the cartilage and bone

Cause

Arthritis

Shoulder pain is often as a result of arthritis. There are many types of arthritis. The most common type of arthritis in the shoulder is osteoarthritis, also known as “wear and tear” arthritis.

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Stiffness

Osteoarthritis develops slowly and the pain it causes worsens over time.

Osteoarthritis, may be related to sports or work injuries and chronic wear and tear.

Often people will avoid shoulder movements in an attempt to lessen arthritis pain. This sometimes leads to a tightening or stiffening of the soft tissue parts of the joint, resulting in a painful restriction of motion.

Diagnosis

In the case of an acute injury causing intense pain, seek medical care as soon as possible. If the pain is less severe, it may be safe to rest a few days to see if time will resolve the problem.

Your Wisconsin Bone & Joint Orthopedic surgeon will conduct a thorough evaluation in order to determine the cause of your shoulder pain and provide you with treatment options.

Medical History

The first step in the evaluation is a thorough medical history. Your doctor may ask how and when the pain started, whether it has occurred before and how it was treated, and other questions to help determine both your general health and the possible causes of your shoulder problem. Because most shoulder conditions are aggravated by specific activities, and relieved by specific activities, a medical history can be a valuable tool in finding the source of your pain.

Physical Examination

A comprehensive examination will be required to find the causes of your shoulder pain. Your doctor will look for physical abnormalities, swelling, deformity or muscle weakness, and check for tender areas. He or she will observe your shoulder range of motion and strength.

Tests

Your WBJ physician may order specific tests to help identify the cause of your pain and any other problems.

X-rays. These pictures will show any injuries to the bones that make up your shoulder joint.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound. Thes imaging studies create better pictures of soft tissues. It may help your doctor identify injuries to the ligaments and tendons surrounding your shoulder joint.

Computed tomography (CT) scan. This tool combines x-rays with computer technology to produce a very detailed view of the bones in the shoulder area.

Electrical studies. He or she may order a tests, such as the EMG (electromyogram), to evaluate nerve function.

Arthrogram. During this x-ray study, dye is injected into the shoulder to better show the joint and its surrounding muscles and tendons.

Treatment

Activity Changes

Treatment generally involves rest, altering your activities, andphysical therapy to help you improve shoulder strength and flexibility. Common sense solutions such as avoiding overexertion or overdoing activities in which you normally do not participate can help to prevent shoulder pain.

Medications

Your doctor may prescribe medication to reduce inflammation and pain. If medication is prescribed to relieve pain, it should be taken only as directed. Your doctor may also recommend injections of numbing medicines or steroids to relieve pain.

Surgery

Surgery may be required to resolve some shoulder problems; however, 90 percent of patients with shoulder pain will respond to simple treatment methods such as altering activities, rest, exercise, and medication.

Certain types of shoulder problems, such as recurring dislocations and some rotator cuff tears, may not benefit from exercise. In these cases, surgery may be recommended fairly early.

Surgery can involve arthroscopy to remove scar tissue or repair torn tissues, or traditional, open procedures for larger reconstructions or shoulder replacement.

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