Shoulder arthritis is an inflammatory disease that affects the shoulder joint and nearby soft tissue and a group of tissues that keep the arm bone centered in the joint socket, known as the rotator cuff. If you are experiencing symptoms associated with arthritis of the shoulder, you may be referred to an orthopedic specialist for treatment. Here’s what you can expect when visiting this type of medical professional.

A Thorough Examination

Even if you’ve already received an initial diagnosis of shoulder arthritis based on your symptoms and medical history, an orthopedic specialist typically performs a thorough examination of the affected shoulder joint. The purpose for doing so is to rule out other possible shoulder-related issues, such as problems with the shoulder’s ball-and-socket joint not related to arthritis, and to determine the extent of the damage already done by the arthritis. Common symptoms suggesting you likely have arthritis of the shoulder include:

  • Discomfort related to activities
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Shoulder joint swelling
  • Tenderness around the shoulder joint
  • Grinding sensations felt around the joint

There are several types of arthritis that may affect one or both shoulders. The most common ones are osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and post-traumatic arthritis, which occurs after an injury. Treatment recommendations will be based, in part, on a determination of the type of shoulder arthritis you have. An initial examine may also involve:

  • Range of motion and flexibility testing
  • X-rays, CT scans, and other image tests
  • A diagnostic arthroscopy to view the joint

Non-Surgical Shoulder Arthritis Treatments

Shoulder arthritis treatment recommendations will depend on factors such as the extent of the symptoms experienced, how much your quality of life is affected, and how much damage has been done to the joint and supporting tissues. If shoulder arthritis is mild or moderate, treatment is likely to be non-surgical. This approach to treatment may include therapeutic exercises, stretching and strengthening routines targeting shoulder muscles, ligaments, and tendons, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil) or prescription NSAIDs.

An orthopedic specialist may also recommend non-surgical treatments such as cortisone injections directly into the affected shoulder, a type of joint supplement known as glucosamine, and various forms of physical therapy. Some patients also benefit from hot and cold therapy to control pain flare-ups. If RA is the type of arthritis affecting your shoulder, methotrexate is one of the disease-modifying drugs that may be prescribed.

Surgical Treatment

If initial attempts at managing symptoms aren’t successful or if damage to the shoulder joint is severe, surgery may become an option. A shoulder arthroscopy may be performed to clean out (debride) the joint. Advanced arthritis may damage the joint to the point where shoulder joint replacement (arthroplasty) is necessary. Another option is what’s termed reverse shoulder replacement, so-named because the ball and socket are reversed.

Get In Touch with Us for More Information

Being diagnosed with shoulder arthritis doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a choice between surgery and ongoing issues with periodic discomfort. There are many non-surgical treatments an orthopedic specialist may be able to recommend to make this condition manageable. For more information, we warmly invite you to reach out and make an appointment with Plymouth Bay Orthopedic Associates. At our convenient locations in Plymouth, Duxbury and Sandwich, our caring and devoted team of professionals will be pleased to explain this option to you in full and answer any questions you may have. Contact us today to set up your consultation!