Shoulder arthritis is a common cause of shoulder pain, swelling and loss of joint motion in patients living in the greater Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens and NYC communities. A patient’s risk of developing arthritis increases with age, as well as a history of previous shoulder injuries and/or surgeries. Dr. Jonathan Ticker, shoulder specialist and orthopedic surgeon, is dedicated in diagnosing and treating this common shoulder condition so patients can return to a healthy, active lifestyle.
Shoulder arthritis is the result of cartilage degeneration, typically from normal wear and tear or extreme overuse. Articular cartilage serves a very important role in joint health and function. Cartilage is the smooth, white substance that covers the ends of each bone throughout the human body and allows a pain-free gliding surface when the joint is in motion. As cartilage breaks down from overuse or the natural aging process, bone becomes exposed and shoulder arthritis symptoms develop.
The most common forms of shoulder arthritis include:
- Osteoarthritis- This form of arthritis is the gradual wearing down of cartilage that occurs largely in older, more mature adults, or is the result of overuse in highly active athletes.
- Post-traumatic arthritis- This form of arthritis occurs within the shoulder joint after an acute or traumatic injury. Even after the injury itself is healed and repaired, the joint can still be susceptible to early arthritis due to mechanical and chemical changes within the joint.
- Rheumatoid arthritis- This form of hereditary or genetic arthritis occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys its own cartilage.
The acromioclavicular (AC) joint and the glenohumeral joint are the two joints within the shoulder that can become affected by arthritis. The AC joint is the location where the collarbone (clavicle) meets the bony roof of the shoulder (acromion), while the glenohumeral joint is located where the ball of the arm bone (humerus) meets the socket (glenoid).
Symptoms of Shoulder Arthritis
Shoulder pain is the hallmark symptom of arthritis. The pain varies for each patient and ranges from mild, long periods of discomfort to sharp, intense bursts of pain. Other common shoulder arthritis symptoms include stiffness, weakness, difficulty lifting and moving the arm and a grinding sensation as the shoulder joint moves.
Diagnosis of Shoulder Arthritis
After discussing shoulder pain and other symptoms, Dr. Ticker will perform a medical review and physical examination. He will look for joint weakness, tenderness, loss of motion, level of shoulder pain and a grinding sound with movement. He will also perform x-rays and an MRI to examine the affected joint’s bony and soft structures in great detail. The x-rays also assist with distinguishing among the forms of shoulder arthritis.
Treatment of Shoulder Arthritis
Many patients suffering from shoulder arthritis find relief with non-operative measures. Resting the affected joint and modifying activities often leads to a decrease in inflammation, while utilizing ice and pain and anti-inflammatory medications often leads to alleviated shoulder pain. Corticosteroid injections and a physical therapy program are also quite beneficial. Physical therapy exercises help soothe symptoms while maintaining motion and strengthening the joint.
There are a number of minimally invasive surgical procedures that can help patients when shoulder arthritis symptoms are too severe and continue to worsen after non-surgical measures. Treatment for shoulder arthritis is based upon the cause and severity of the arthritis, symptom intensity and the patient’s functional level.
In its early stages, shoulder arthritis can be treated via arthroscopic surgery. During the procedure, Dr. Ticker trims out the inflamed synovial lining tissue and removes pieces of the degenerated cartilage. This treatment will not completely cure the arthritis, but relieves shoulder pain and other unwanted symptoms so a patient can comfortably function. When shoulder arthritis primarily affects the AC joint, this condition can be readily treated with an arthroscopic procedure to remove the arthritic portions of this joint.
In more severe cases, the recommended surgical treatment may be shoulder replacement surgery, otherwise known as shoulder arthroplasty. This more invasive surgical procedure often restores motion lost through cartilage degeneration by replacing the damaged ball with a synthetic surface. It is important to note shoulder arthroplasty is not recommended for young patients, commonly under the age of 70 years. In younger, active patients, Dr. Ticker can recommend other joint restoration and joint preservation techniques that have been clinically proven to alleviate symptoms, regenerate articular cartilage and delay the need for shoulder replacement surgery.
If you are suffering from shoulder pain and believe it may be caused by shoulder arthritis, you are encouraged to contact the office of Dr. Jonathan Ticker, shoulder specialist proudly serving the greater Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens and NYC area.