Joint inflammation – aka arthritis – can occur throughout the body. It causes pain, swelling, and stiffness in affected joints. It can also cause tissue damage at or surrounding the joint.
What Is Arthritis?
Technically, there are more than 100 types of arthritis. By far, the most common type of shoulder arthritis we treat at The Shoulder Institute at ORTHOKnox is osteoarthritis, a degenerative wear-and-tear condition that tends to begin in middle age and worsens over time.
Cartilage, a rubber-like padding, is naturally present at the ends of your bones. This helps to cushion your joints – the places where your bones meet – by acting as a shock absorber. However, if you have osteoarthritis, the cartilage between bones gets worn away, causing pain and inflammation at the joint. This can lead to bone-on-bone friction that can make even the simplest of movements unbearable.
Shoulder arthritis tends to affect one of these two shoulder joints: the glenohumeral joint (the primary ball-and-socket shoulder joint) and the acromioclavicular joint (the AC joint connects the collar bone to the top of the shoulder blade). It can also develop in an area of previous injury. For example, a rotator cuff tear can lead to bone-on-bone friction, triggering arthritis. Athletes are particularly susceptible to shoulder arthritis in the location of a previous shoulder injury.
The Bone Spur Connection
Bone spurs – bony growths that are also called osteophytes – tend to develop in response to chronic inflammation and irritation. The spurs themselves don’t typically cause pain and are part of the body’s attempt to heal itself. However, bone spurs can fray and irritate nearby tissue, including the bursa or tendons, leading to bursitis and tendonitis.
One of the most common locations for bone spurs to develop in the shoulder is under the acromion, which sits atop the shoulder blade and connects to the deltoid muscle.
How Do You Know If You Have Arthritis?
Shoulder arthritis doesn’t just affect older adults – younger patients also develop the condition, especially following a shoulder injury, say, from playing sports or an auto accident.
If you find yourself refraining from activities because certain types of movements hurt, you may have arthritis. Without proper medical care, your shoulder could actually get worse – more stiff and less flexible. Simply refraining from use of the shoulder can lead to weakened muscles in the area, leaving the joint vulnerable to further injury.
Many patients with shoulder arthritis describe it as a deep ache in the joint that may intensify before and during snow, rain, or humid weather. That’s because, when the atmospheric pressure dips as it does in these weather conditions, inflamed tissue at a joint swells even more, increasing the level of pain in an arthritic joint.
Diagnosing and Treating Shoulder Arthritis
A physical exam and X-rays are typically all that is needed to diagnose shoulder arthritis. In some cases, an MRI or CT scan may be recommended for a detailed look at the shoulder joint, to rule out other causes of your symptoms, or to identify the presence of co-occurring issues, such as bone spurs, tendonitis, or other conditions.
There is no cure for arthritis. However, rest, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy and other targeted therapies may be able to help alleviate the symptoms of shoulder arthritis – depending on the severity of your condition. In addition, regular exercise can help to reduce pain and improve your mobility.
A minimally invasive arthroscopic procedure may also provide pain relief for patients with moderate to severe shoulder arthritis. Board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic shoulder surgeon Dr. David Hovis at The Shoulder Institute at ORTHOKnox has successfully treated arthritis patients with this method, which involves using a small incision and miniature surgical instruments to clean out the inside of the joint. This does not eliminate shoulder arthritis but can dramatically improve the quality of life for those who wish to delay a more intensive surgery.
If your condition is advanced or your symptoms severe, you may require a shoulder replacement surgery.
Shoulder Arthritis Treatment in Knoxville and Athens, TN
Don’t suffer a moment longer with what could be shoulder arthritis. Find out what your treatments options are by contacting a shoulder expert. Dr. David Hovis at The Shoulder Institute at ORTHOKnox can properly diagnose and treat you. Get started by calling (865) 251-3030 or submit your appointment request now.