Shoulder Arthritis – Causes, Symptoms and Remedies

Basically there are two joints in the area of the shoulder. One is located where the collarbone (clavicle) meets the tip of the shoulder bone. When a person suffers from arthritis of the shoulder, both joints may be affected by arthritis.

Types of Arthritis that affect the shoulder:

Three major types of arthritis generally affect the shoulder.


  • Osteoarthritis, or “wear-and-tear” arthritis, is a degenerative condition that destroys the smooth outer covering (articular cartilage) of bone. It usually affects people over 50 years of age and is more common in the AC joint than in the glenohumeral shoulder joint.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic inflammatory condition of the joint lining. It can affect people of any age and usually affects multiple joints on both sides of the body.
  • Posttraumatic arthritis is a form of osteoarthritis that develops after an injury such as a fracture or dislocation of the shoulder. Arthritis can also develop after a rotator cuff tear.

Signs and symptoms

The following are a few symptoms which you could experience if you suffer from Shoulder Arthritis:


  • The most common symptom of arthritis of the shoulder is pain, which is aggravated by activity and progressively worsens. If the glenohumeral shoulder joint is affected, the pain is centered in the back of the shoulder and may intensify with changes in the weather.
  • The pain of arthritis in the AC joint is focused on the front of the shoulder. Someone with rheumatoid arthritis may have pain in all these areas if both shoulder joints are affected
  • Limited motion: It may become more difficult to lift your arm to comb your hair or reach up to a shelf. You may hear a clicking or snapping sound (crepitus) as you move your shoulder
  • As the disease progresses, any movement of the shoulder causes pain, night pain is common and sleeping may be difficult.


  • A physical examination
  • X-rays

During the physical examination, your physician could look for:

  • Weakness (atrophy) in the muscles
  • Tenderness to touch
  • Extent of passive (assisted) and active (self-directed) range of motion
  • Any signs of injury to the muscles, tendons and ligaments surrounding the joint as well as signs of previous injuries
  • Involvement of other joints (an indication of rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Crepitus with movement
  • Pain when pressure is placed on the joint X-rays of an arthritic shoulder show a narrowing of the joint space, changes in the bone and the formation of bone spurs (osteophytes). If an injection of a local anesthetic into the joint temporarily relieves the pain, the diagnosis is confirmed.


As with other arthritic conditions, initial treatment of arthritis of the shoulder is conservative:


  • Rest or change activities to avoid provoking pain; you may need to modify the way you move your arm to do things.
  • You could be advised to take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce inflammation.
  • If you have rheumatoid arthritis, your doctor may prescribe a disease-modifying drug such as methotrexate or recommend a series of corticosteroid injections.
  • Dietary supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate may be helpful.