Arthritis of the shoulder
Arthritis simply means inflammation of a joint. Inflammation of a joint may cause pain and stiffness and produce what we call a painful stiff shoulder (PSS). There are many different causes of arthritis but it in the shoulder the most common type of arthritis is the wear and tear as we age or repeatedly stress the joint in activities such as sport. The wear and tear type of arthritis is called osteoarthritis. There is no cure for arthritis so education, knowledge and ultimately prevention are best.
Please note that osteoarthritis of the shoulder is complex, and although we use the language ‘wear and tear’ this is an overly simplified model that the research is suggesting may not be as simple as we think. Just like in many joints of the body the research is showing us that movement actually protects us again arthritis and people that move well and often are protected against osteoarthritis. Therefore any activity limitations based on the assumption of moving too much and wearing a joint out should be carefully considered with an experienced health care practitioner such as a chiropractor or physiotherapist. In certain cases after trauma or injury this may be true and in other cases this couldn’t be further form the truth. Remember ‘motion is lotion’ movement lubricates and protects our joints, especially the shoulder. Optimal movement is idea for joint health.
Causes of arthritis of the shoulder
Arthritis can come in many forms. Our chiropractors and physiotherapists will canvass and describe the most common ones here starting with the most common type of arthritis of the shoulder, osteoarthritis.
Wear and tear (overly simplified as stated above – depend on huge array of factors) of our joints as we age is a simple reality of living on planet Earth as a human. We will all get this to some degree as we age. However for some, this process will be advanced and can require ongoing support and treatments. In osteoarthritis the cartilage ends of bones that allow the joint to move freely and without restriction is destroyed. The edges of bone loose their lubrication, fray and eventually are drawn in together to become ‘bone-on-bone’. This will lead to rubbing of the bone ends against each other and pain, stiffness and dysfunction. As this is typically age related it is most common over 50-60 years of age, previous shoulder dislocation or injury makes this shoulder condition more likely and this is sometimes called ‘post-traumatic arthritis’. When arthritis develops after long standing rotator cuff tendon problems this has been termed ‘rotator cuff arthropathy’.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. This means our body attacks our own body and specifically our joints. Our joints have a lubrication lining and this is called the synovium and synovial fluid. In rheumatoid arthritis this layer swells and creates a painful stiff joint. A key feature of rheumatoid arthritis is that it attacks both sides of the body (left and right) in a symmetrical fashion even though one side may be worse than the other.
Although not as common, in individuals who have high steroid or alcohol use, have an shoulder injury such as a fracture or for unknown causes can develop cell death in the shoulder joint and this will lead to arthritis. It is worth considering here as it highlights that not all arthritis is from mechanical or autoimmune causes.
Symptoms of shoulder arthritis
The hallmark of any arthritis of the shoulder is pain and stiffness. Typically shoulder arthritis is aggravated the more you use the shoulder. Night pain and morning stiffness are common complaints.
Treatment of shoulder arthritis
The treatment of shoulder arthritis will largely depend on what type of arthritis it is. In cases of rheumatoid arthritis, specialist medical care is needed along with chiropractic and physiotherapy management to limit shoulder pain and regain lost function. Osteoarthritis of the shoulder is a clinical interest at Sydney Spine & Sports Centre (S3C) our chiropractors and physiotherapists treat many athletes with the post traumatic subcategory of shoulder arthritis and work heavily with patients to come up rehabilitation programs that are evidence-based, promote recovery of mobility and restoration of lost function.
Please read these articles on common shoulder problems for greater understanding
- Shoulder pain overview
- Rotator cuff tear
- Biceps tendon tear in shoulder
- Chronic shoulder instability
- The unstable painful shoulder
- The weak painful shoulder
- The stiff painful shoulder
- Shoulder impingement
- Dislocated shoulder
- SLAP tears of the shoulder
- Biceps tendinitis of the shoulder