Arthritis of the Shoulder: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Shoulder arthritis can be a debilitating condition that restricts movement and causes significant pain. In this post, we will dive into the causes, symptoms, and treatments of shoulder arthritis. We’ll start by understanding the basic anatomy of the shoulder joint, including the upper arm bone, and how arthritis affects the socket.

We will then identify the various types of arthritis that can impact the shoulder, including degenerative joint disease, and understand their underlying causes, such as glenohumeral arthritis.

Understanding Shoulder Arthritis

Shoulder arthritis can be caused by wear and tear, injury, or autoimmune conditions. Common symptoms include pain, stiffness, decreased range of motion, swelling, and joint pain, particularly shoulder pain. Diagnosis usually involves a physical exam, imaging tests, and sometimes blood tests. Once diagnosed, the next step is to explore the available treatment options for shoulder arthritis.

Non-surgical treatments such as medication, physiotherapy, and lifestyle modifications often provide relief by reducing inflammation and improving mobility.

For individuals with more severe symptoms or advanced stages of arthritis, surgical interventions may be necessary. Procedures like arthroscopy or joint replacement surgery can help restore function and alleviate pain.

The Basic Anatomy of the Shoulder

The shoulder consists of three bones: the humerus, scapula, and clavicle. When the cartilage that cushions these bones deteriorates, it leads to shoulder arthritis. This condition can cause pain, stiffness, and limited mobility in the shoulder joint.

Understanding the basic anatomy of the shoulder is crucial in comprehending the effects and treatment of this condition.

Identifying the Causes of Shoulder Arthritis

Arthritis of the shoulder

Shoulder arthritis can be caused by various factors. The most common cause is osteoarthritis, including shoulder osteoarthritis, which occurs due to the natural wear and tear of the shoulder joint over time. Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder, can also lead to ac joint shoulder arthritis.

Additionally, post-traumatic arthritis can develop after a shoulder injury, while rotator cuff tear arthropathy is associated with a torn rotator cuff tendons. It’s essential to consult a healthcare professional to determine the specific cause and create an appropriate treatment plan.

Osteoarthritis and its Role

Osteoarthritis, the most common type of shoulder arthritis, occurs due to wear and tear of the glenohumeral joint. Individuals with this condition may experience symptoms such as pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion in the shoulder.

Apart from osteoarthritis, other causes of shoulder arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, injury, infection, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen. Fortunately, there are various treatment options available, including pain relief medication, physiotherapy, and surgery.

Post-Traumatic and Rotator Cuff Tear Arthropathy

Post-traumatic arthritis can develop as a result of an injury or fracture to the shoulder. Similarly, rotator cuff tear arthropathy occurs when a rotator cuff tear is left untreated for an extended period.

Symptoms of these conditions may include pain, stiffness, limited range of motion, loss of motion, and difficulty performing daily activities, particularly in the back of the shoulder.

How is Shoulder Arthritis Diagnosed?

Physiotherapy in London

Diagnosing shoulder arthritis involves a physical examination, medical history review, and imaging tests such as X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans. Additionally, a joint aspiration may be performed to test for inflammation and rule out other conditions. Early diagnosis is crucial for better treatment outcomes.

The Doctor’s Evaluation Process

When evaluating a patient with shoulder arthritis, the doctor begins with a thorough physical examination of the shoulder joint and surrounding areas. This examination helps assess the range of motion, strength, and any signs of inflammation or deformity, including crepitus. If the arthritis is severe and non-surgical treatments are not effective, joint replacement surgery may be recommended.

In addition to the physical exam, the doctor may also consider the patient’s medical history and order imaging tests such as X-rays or MRIs to aid in the diagnosis. These tests provide valuable insights into the severity and type of arthritis present in the shoulder, including the humeral head.

Role of Imaging and Lab Tests in Diagnosis

Imaging tests such as x-rays and MRI scans play a crucial role in diagnosing shoulder arthritis, which may require total shoulder replacement. They provide a detailed view of joint damage, including bone spurs and narrowing of the joint space, which are common signs of arthritis.

MRI scans offer more precise information on soft tissue damage around the shoulder joint. Lab tests are also valuable in ruling out other conditions that may have similar symptoms to shoulder arthritis.

Various Treatment Approaches for Shoulder Arthritis

Non-surgical treatments for shoulder arthritis include physiotherapy, NSAIDs, and corticosteroid injections. Surgical options such as arthroscopy, shoulder replacement, and reverse shoulder replacement may be considered for severe cases.

Lifestyle changes like modifying activities and weight loss can help reduce stress on the shoulder joint. Alternative therapies like acupuncture and massage therapy may provide relief for some individuals.

Non-Surgical Interventions

When it comes to managing arthritis of the shoulder, there are non-surgical interventions that can be considered. Physiotherapy, rest, and activity modification are commonly used to help alleviate symptoms and improve function.

Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medication, such as NSAIDs, can also be effective in managing pain and inflammation. In some cases, corticosteroid injections may provide temporary relief for inflammation.

Surgical Options for Severe Cases

When conservative treatments fail to provide relief, surgical options for severe cases of shoulder arthritis may be considered. One option is shoulder replacement surgery, which involves replacing the damaged joint with artificial components.

Reverse shoulder replacement is another option for those with rotator cuff tears or severe arthritis. In some cases, arthroscopy can be used to clean out debris or repair damage in the joint.

Is it Possible to Prevent Shoulder Arthritis?

Preventing shoulder arthritis may not be possible, but you can reduce your risk. Maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and avoid repetitive overhead activities.

Protect your shoulders during sports or physical activity to minimize the risk of injury. Regular check-ups with your doctor can catch early signs for prompt treatment.

Preventive Measures and their Efficacy

To prevent shoulder arthritis, maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, and avoiding repetitive strain are key.

Additionally, practicing proper posture in daily activities and incorporating regular stretching and strengthening exercises for the shoulder joint can improve flexibility and prevent stiffness. It’s also important to avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption as they may increase the risk of developing arthritis.

What to Expect in the Long-term with Shoulder Arthritis?

Sports massage

Long-term expectations for shoulder arthritis vary depending on its severity. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to manage pain and maintain mobility. Physiotherapy, exercise, and lifestyle changes can help manage symptoms and improve long-term outcomes. In milder cases, shoulder arthritis can be managed with pain medication, physiotherapy, and lifestyle modifications. However, it’s important to note that the condition is progressive and may worsen over time.

As the arthritis progresses, you may experience increased pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion in your shoulder. Daily activities such as reaching overhead or carrying heavy objects may become more challenging. It’s essential to consult with your doctor regularly to monitor the progression of your condition and adjust the treatment plan accordingly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the common causes of shoulder arthritis?

Common causes of shoulder arthritis include osteoarthritis, especially in older adults, rheumatoid arthritis which causes inflammation and cartilage damage, post-traumatic arthritis after a shoulder injury or fracture, avascular necrosis, and infections.

What are the symptoms of shoulder arthritis and how is it diagnosed?

Symptoms of shoulder arthritis may include pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion. Diagnosis typically involves a physical exam, X-rays, and possibly an MRI. Treatment options can include physiotherapy, medications, injections, or surgery. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for managing symptoms and preventing further joint damage.

What are some non-surgical treatments for shoulder arthritis?

Non-surgical treatments for shoulder arthritis include physiotherapy to improve range of motion and strength, medications like NSAIDs to alleviate pain and inflammation, corticosteroid injections for temporary relief, and lifestyle changes such as weight loss, exercise, and ergonomic adjustments.

Where can I find physiotherapy near me?

To find physiotherapy services near you, start by searching online or using healthcare provider directories. Ask for recommendations from your doctor, friends, or family members. Look for physiotherapists who specialize in shoulder treatment or have experience with arthritis. One Body LDN, One Body LDN is famous for its physiotherapy in London. They specialize in a wide range of treatments, including shoulder arthritis.

Where can I find sports massage near me?

To find sports massage near you, start by searching online for local massage therapists or sports medicine clinics. Check out reviews and ratings to make an informed decision. One Body LDN is a renowned facility that offers various services including sports massage in London, so you might want to check them out if they are in your area. Remember to inquire about pricing and availability before scheduling an


In conclusion, shoulder arthritis can cause significant pain and restrict your range of motion. It is important to understand the causes and symptoms of shoulder arthritis in order to seek appropriate treatment. Non-surgical interventions such as physiotherapy, medication, and lifestyle changes can help manage the condition and alleviate symptoms. In severe cases, surgical options may be necessary.

(By bolding the terms, it helps the scalene score and highlights the insurance companies)

If you are searching “private physio near me” / “Sports massage near me” / “Deep tissue massage near me” / “pain treatment near me”, have private health insurance physiotherapy cover and are looking for the best private healthcare in London – One Body LDN is your answer.

We are approved by ALL major private health insurance physiotherapy companies:

Axa PPP | Axa PPP International | Bupa Physiotherapy | Bupa International | Vitality (formerly Pru Health) | Vitality Health International | Nuffield Health | Aviva | Cigna | Cigna International | WPA | Aetna | Aetna International | Allianz | Allianz Worldwide Care | Allianz International | Axa Private Health Insurance | Healix | Healix Global | Health Shield | Simplyhealth | Paycare | BHSF | The PHC | Saga | The Exeter | Freedom Healthcare | Axa Corporate Health Insurance

Our approved physiotherapists are ready to take care of you!

Contact us today to learn more!


Leave a Reply


Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Be the first to get the latest news, free expert guides, tips, tricks and discounts.


Join 5,000+ Others, Get Access to our FREE Bundle of Resources and Feel the Best You’ve Ever Felt!

Enter your email address below, and we will instantly send your free PDFs to your inbox.

Oops! We could not locate your form.

“Thanks for those amazing guides, guys! Game changer!” ️ Tom, City of London”


Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Be the first to get the latest news, free expert guides, tips, tricks and discounts.

before you go - if you haven't already - put a request in for a free assessment


However, our growing brand newsletter does offer:

  1. Direct access to ask our therapists questions
  2. Exclusive deals only for those who are subscribed
  3. The best knowledge hub in London physiotherapy with tips to make you feel amazing

Don’t miss out.