Welcome to Jivana Care! at Bethesda, Maryland, USA
Jivana CareJivana CareJivana Care
(301) 951-3606
8 am - 3:30 pm
8347 Cherry Ln, Laurel,
MD 20707, United States

An Overview of Shoulder Osteoarthritis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

An Overview of Shoulder Osteoarthritis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Introduction to Shoulder Osteoarthritis

Shoulder osteoarthritis, or shoulder arthritis, is a degenerative joint condition that affects the shoulder joint and can cause significant shoulder pain. It is a common ailment among older individuals, but younger people may also be affected, especially if they have a history of shoulder injuries. In this article, we will explore the anatomy of the shoulder joint, causes of shoulder osteoarthritis, common symptoms, diagnostic methods, and various treatment options. By understanding the intricacies of this condition, you can take the necessary steps to manage your arthritis and improve your quality of life.

Understanding the Shoulder Joint and Its Anatomy

The shoulder joint is a complex structure comprised of several shoulder bones, including the humerus (upper arm bone), scapula (shoulder blade), and clavicle (collarbone). It is a ball-and-socket joint, with the head of the humerus fitting into the glenoid cavity of the scapula. This allows the shoulder to have a wide range of motion, making it one of the most mobile joints in the body.

The joint is stabilized and supported by a network of ligaments, tendons, and muscles. The rotator cuff, a group of muscles and tendons, plays a crucial role in maintaining the stability of the shoulder joint. The joint is also lined with a smooth layer of cartilage that allows for smooth movement and acts as a cushion between the bones. Over time, this cartilage can wear down, resulting in shoulder osteoarthritis.

Causes of Shoulder Osteoarthritis

There are several factors that contribute to the development of shoulder osteoarthritis. These include:

  1. Age: As we age, the cartilage in our joints naturally begins to wear down. This is the most common cause of shoulder osteoarthritis, as the majority of cases occur in individuals over the age of 50.
  2. Genetics: A family history of arthritis or other joint problems can predispose you to developing shoulder osteoarthritis.
  3. Previous shoulder injuries: A history of shoulder injuries, such as dislocations or fractures, can increase the risk of developing arthritis in the shoulder joint later in life.
  4. Overuse: Repetitive movements or activities that place excessive strain on the shoulder joint, such as heavy lifting or overhead sports, can contribute to the development of shoulder osteoarthritis.
  5. Inflammatory conditions: Certain inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, can cause damage to the joint lining and lead to shoulder arthritis.

Common Symptoms of Shoulder Arthritis

There are several arthritis shoulder pain symptoms that individuals with shoulder osteoarthritis may experience. These include:

  1. Pain: Arthritis in the shoulder can cause dull, aching pain that worsens with activity and may be felt at rest as the condition progresses.
  2. Stiffness: Arthritis in the shoulder joint can lead to stiffness and reduced range of motion, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks, such as reaching overhead or behind the back.
  3. Swelling: Inflammation within the joint can lead to swelling and warmth around the shoulder.
  4. Crepitus: The worn cartilage may cause a grinding or clicking sensation when you move your shoulder.
  5. Muscle weakness: As the joint becomes more unstable due to arthritis, the surrounding muscles may weaken, further limiting function and mobility.

Diagnosing Shoulder Osteoarthritis

A thorough physical examination and medical history are essential for diagnosing shoulder osteoarthritis. Your healthcare provider will evaluate your shoulder for tenderness, swelling, and range of motion. Imaging studies, such as X-rays, MRI, or CT scans, may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis and assess the severity of the arthritis. Blood tests may also be performed to rule out other causes of shoulder pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis or an infection.

Non-surgical Treatment Options for Shoulder Arthritis

There are several conservative treatment options available for managing arthritis shoulder pain and improving joint function. These include:

  1. Rest and activity modification: Avoiding activities that aggravate your shoulder pain and allowing the joint to rest can help reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms.
  2. Physical therapy: A physical therapist can help you develop a personalized exercise plan to improve your shoulder’s range of motion, strength, and stability.
  3. Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen, can help manage arthritis shoulder pain. In some cases, prescription medications or corticosteroid injections may be recommended.
  4. Heat and cold therapy: Applying heat or cold packs to the affected shoulder can provide temporary relief from pain and inflammation.
  5. Assistive devices: Using a cane or other support devices can help relieve pressure on the shoulder joint and improve mobility.

Surgical Treatments for Shoulder Osteoarthritis

If conservative treatments are unsuccessful in managing your shoulder arthritis symptoms, your healthcare provider may recommend surgical intervention. Some common surgical procedures for shoulder osteoarthritis include:

  1. Arthroscopy: A minimally invasive procedure that involves the removal of damaged cartilage and bone spurs within the shoulder joint.
  2. Joint replacement: In severe cases of shoulder osteoarthritis, a total shoulder replacement or reverse shoulder replacement may be necessary to restore joint function and alleviate pain.
  3. Osteotomy: This procedure involves reshaping the bones in the shoulder joint to improve alignment and reduce pressure on the damaged cartilage.

Rehabilitation and Aftercare for Shoulder Arthritis Patients

Following surgery for shoulder osteoarthritis, a comprehensive rehabilitation program is essential for achieving optimal outcomes. This may include physical therapy to restore range of motion, strength, and function, as well as occupational therapy to help you adapt to any limitations and resume daily activities. Pain management techniques, such as medications and heat/cold therapy, will also play a role in your recovery.

Tips for Managing Shoulder Arthritis Pain

In addition to the treatments mentioned above, there are several strategies that can help you manage arthritis shoulder pain and maintain a good quality of life:

  1. Maintain a healthy weight: Carrying excess weight can place additional strain on your joints, worsening arthritis symptoms.
  2. Practice good posture: Maintaining proper alignment can help reduce stress on the shoulder joint.
  3. Stay active: Engaging in low-impact activities, such as swimming, walking, or yoga, can help improve joint flexibility and overall health.
  4. Seek support: Connecting with others who have arthritis, either in person or through online support groups, can provide valuable information, encouragement, and understanding.

Preventing Shoulder Osteoarthritis

While it is not always possible to prevent shoulder osteoarthritis, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk and maintain healthy joints:

  1. Protect your shoulder joint: Practice proper lifting techniques, wear protective gear during sports, and avoid repetitive overhead movements.
  2. Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and manage your weight to support joint health.
  3. Strengthen your muscles: Regular strength training exercises can help maintain the stability and function of your shoulder joint.


Shoulder osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition that can cause significant shoulder pain and reduced mobility. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and available treatments, you can take an active role in managing your arthritis and maintaining a high quality of life. If you suspect you may have shoulder osteoarthritis, consult with your healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.


What is Shoulder Osteoarthritis?

Shoulder Osteoarthritis (also known as shoulder arthritis) is a type of arthritis that affects the shoulder joint, causing pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion. It occurs when the cartilage in the shoulder joint wears away, leading to bone rubbing on bone.

What are the Causes of Shoulder Osteoarthritis?

The most common cause of shoulder osteoarthritis is age-related wear and tear. Other factors that can contribute to the development of shoulder arthritis include repetitive use, trauma, and genetic predisposition.

What are the Symptoms of Shoulder Osteoarthritis?

Symptoms of shoulder osteoarthritis can include pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion in the affected area. Other symptoms may include swelling, tenderness, and a grinding sensation when the joint is moved.

How is Shoulder Osteoarthritis Treated?

Treatment for shoulder osteoarthritis typically includes medications, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes to reduce stress on the affected joint. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair or replace the damaged joint.

Is There Anything I Can Do to Prevent Shoulder Osteoarthritis?

There are a few steps you can take to help reduce your risk of developing shoulder osteoarthritis. These include maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, avoiding activities that put too much stress on the shoulder joint, and avoiding activities that involve repetitive motions.