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How to Treat Shoulder Arthritis

how to treat shoulder arthritis
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Our shoulders get a lot of use throughout the day, and are susceptible to painful arthritis. Here’s how to treat the condition.

One of the most mobile joints in the body, the shoulder enables us to rotate and lift our arms. Because we use our shoulders so much, we may not realize how much wear and tear the joint withstands over the years. Eventually, overuse can lead to painful shoulder arthritis.

A persistent ache, stiffness, limited range of motion, and a clicking sound when you move the joint can all indicate shoulder arthritis, which refers to the gradual wearing down of the cartilage that cushions the bones of the joint. Without that cushion, the shoulder (or other affected joint) cannot move smoothly. 

Depending on the severity of your arthritis, treatment options range from conservative to surgical. After a physical examination and an X-ray, your orthopedist will discuss the best therapy to ease your shoulder pain.

What Causes Shoulder Arthritis?

The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, a degenerative disorder that often develops as we age. Over time, the cartilage may break down completely, allowing the bones of the joint to rub together. 

Rheumatoid arthritis, another form of the condition, occurs when the body’s immune system attacks healthy joints, tissues, and organs. This type of inflammation usually affects both shoulders at the same time. 

Shoulder arthritis can also result from trauma to the joint or severe damage to the rotator cuff tendons that hold the shoulder in place. 

Treating Shoulder Arthritis

The initial phase of treating shoulder arthritis focuses on improving the joint’s range of motion and flexibility with stretching exercises. To reduce pain, you can take over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, or your doctor may inject a corticosteroid into the joint to bring down the swelling. 

Icing the shoulder can alleviate the pain, as well. Or, applying heat may loosen the joint so you can perform stretching exercises. Activities that cause significant pain should be avoided until the shoulder is sufficiently healed.

Severe cases of shoulder arthritis may be treated with surgery. Shoulder replacement surgery involves the removal of either part or all of the shoulder joint, which is made up of a ball at the top of the upper arm (humerus) that fits into a socket in the shoulder blade, or scapula.

In a total shoulder replacement, the entire joint is removed and replaced with a steel prosthesis ball attached to the humerus. A plastic cup fastened within the scapula takes the place of the original socket. 

A reverse shoulder replacement also removes the entire joint. However, the placement of the ball and socket is opposite that of a total shoulder replacement. The ball is cemented to the scapula and a prosthetic socket is placed on the top of the humerus. 

The third option, a partial shoulder replacement, removes and replaces only the ball of the humerus, leaving the glenoid cavity untouched. This procedure has a similar recovery time as total and reverse shoulder replacements.

After a period of rest following surgery, you’ll begin a physical therapy regimen to restore range of motion to the shoulder. Complete recovery typically takes several months.

Visiting a Doctor for Shoulder Arthritis

The physicians and surgeons at New York Bone & Joint Specialists are experts in healing shoulder pain. We’ll restore full function to your shoulder through a program of physical therapy, medication, or surgery, if needed. We also offer services to treat many other orthopedic disorders. 

Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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