Shoulder Arthritis osteoarthritis of the shoulder degenerative joint disease of the shoulder
Shoulder arthritis is when the cartilage that caps the ends of the bones in the glenohumeral joint (ball and socket shoulder joint) wears away or is damaged.  Without healthy, smooth cartilage, the bones begin to grind together.  This causes pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Shoulder arthritis is caused by wear and tear.  Cartilage does not have a very good blood supply and does not heal as well as other tissues.  Over time, it can begin to soften and peel away from the bone.  An injury to the shoulder can damage the cartilage and speed up the wear and tear.  Lifestyle and genetics can play a role as well.
Shoulder pain usually gradually worsens over time.  However, sometimes an injury can aggravate arthritis that was already present.  Shoulder pain is worse with movement and may grind or pop.  Shoulder arthritis is often associated with other degenerative changes such as rotator cuff tears, labral tears, or biceps tendinitis.  Sometimes, because it is painful to move the shoulder, the shoulder becomes very stiff (frozen shoulder).
Shoulder arthritis is diagnosed based on a history, physical exam, and x-rays.  Patients usually have a history of gradually increasing pain that is worse with moving the arm.  Sometimes shoulder pain begins with an injury because the injury aggravates arthritis that is already present.
During the physical exam, the shoulder is inspected for swelling.  Shoulder range-of-motion, both active and passive, may be limited.  The shoulder may be tender along the joint line.  The shoulder often crunches, grinds, and pops with moving the arm.
In early arthritis, no changes are visible on an x-ray.  As arthritis becomes more advanced, the joint space between the bones narrows and bone spurs form.  X-rays are important when there is an injury in order to rule out fractures (broken bones).  X-rays may show evidence of other shoulder problems such as chronic rotator cuff tears or arthritis at the acromioclavicular (AC) joint (the joint where the scapula and the clavicle meet).
Non-surgical treatments for shoulder arthritis are anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, ice, and activity modification.  Steroid injections can help to reduce pain and inflammation.  Physical therapy may or may not be beneficial.
The definitive treatment for shoulder arthritis is a shoulder replacement.  During a shoulder replacement, the arthritic ends of the bones in the glenohumeral joint are removed and replaced with metal implants.  Patients need several weeks of rehabilitation.  Shoulder replacement surgery relieves arthritic shoulder pain.  Range-of-motion is often better after surgery than it was with the arthritis.  However, shoulder range-of-motion does not usually improve to that of a healthy, young person.
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normal shoulder x-ray
degenerative changes (arthritis)
Shoulder Replacement Surgery
humerus
scapula