Shoulder Conditions

What is Shoulder Arthritis?

Shoulder arthritis is a painful condition in which the normally smooth cartilage covering the ball and socket of the shoulder joint is damaged due to disease, wear and tear, injury or surgery. Different types of shoulder arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis (OA), post-traumatic arthritis (PA), or rotator cuff arthropathy. Avascular necrosis (AVN) is a condition in which the bone "dies" as a result of a loss of circulation to an area of bone tissue. It can lead to the collapse of the bone and joint, causing pain and immobility.  

Baptist Health is known for advanced, superior care for patients with orthopedic conditions and the diagnosis, treatment and management of shoulder arthritis. You will appreciate timely appointments and a professional, friendly atmosphere where we take time to listen to your concerns. At Baptist Health, you have access to the region’s most comprehensive, multidisciplinary team of specialists and innovative therapies, including many available only through specialized clinical trials. In every way, we work to demonstrate the utmost in excellent care to those who trust us with their health.

Signs and Symptoms

Shoulder arthritis symptoms can be unpleasant. One of the most common symptoms to look for is arthritis shoulder pain. The pain starts in your shoulder and gradually moves down your arm.

Symptoms of shoulder arthritis can include:

  • Bone-on-bone rubbing—You may experience pain when bones rub or grind against each other between two joint surfaces.
  • Joint stiffness—Joint stiffness usually means that your shoulder joint is stiffer than usual. You may feel discomfort when you move your arm or reach overhead. This is often referred to as arthritis in your shoulder joint.
  • Sleep disturbance—You may experience trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. This is due to your body’s natural response to pain.
  • Shoulder weakness—You might notice marked weakness in your shoulder.
  • Range of motion limitation—Some patients experience a limited range of motion that negatively impacts daily living, work, and sports.


If shoulder arthritis is suspected, a physical examination including a review of the symptoms is completed. Advanced diagnostic procedures and technology to effectively diagnose, determine treatment and sometimes monitor the condition are utilized. Common diagnostic procedures can include:

X-rays: This is a common imaging test of bones or joints.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): A large magnet, radio waves and a computer are used to produce pictures of the shoulder.

Bone scan: Special imaging tests can show the density of a bone or active bone formation.

CT scan: X-rays and computers are used to create images of the affected area. This provides a more detailed picture than an ultrasound.


Preventable causes of shoulder arthritis (a disorder in which joints simply wear out) can include:

  • Repetitive motion, such as those made by a throwing athlete baseball, football) and weightlifting
  • A sudden pull and violent overhead reach such as trying to stop a fall

Risk Factors

Risk factors that can contribute to shoulder arthritis include:

Age: Arthritis typically affects people in their 60s and 70s, although it may develop depending on the cause.

Rheumatoid arthritis: An autoimmune disorder that occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body's tissues. Unlike the wear-and-tear damage of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of joints, causing a painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity. This condition can affect people at a younger age.

Surgery: Prior surgery to repair injury or fracture can disrupt the cartilage surface and may lead to joint destruction over time.


While many risk factors cannot be controlled, you can help prevent osteoarthritis and post-traumatic arthritis (caused by injury, such as a fracture or dislocation of the shoulder) in these ways:

Avoid repetitive impact and vibratory forces: This may lead to premature joint wear.

Wear protective gear: Protect joints from injury during sports and other strenuous physical activity.


One surgical treatment option for shoulder arthritis is shoulder replacement, also referred to as arthroplasty. Shoulder replacement is a surgical procedure that replaces the damaged joint surfaces in the shoulder with artificial surfaces. This surgery often reduces shoulder pain and relieves other shoulder arthritis symptoms for many years.


The prognosis for people with shoulder arthritis depends upon the type of shoulder arthritis and the severity of the joint inflammation and damage.  Many treatment options are available and most people can manage pain and stay active.

Treatment and Recovery

The main treatments for shoulder arthritis are:

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen, as well as corticosteroid injections in the shoulder, can temporarily reduce inflammation and pain. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, a doctor may prescribe a disease-modifying drug.

Dietary supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate may help relieve pain, although there is no evidence to support that these supplements are an effective treatment.

Heat and Cold
Rest, moist heat and ice for 20 to 30 minutes, three times a day, may reduce inflammation and ease pain.

Physical Therapy and Exercise
Shoulder stretches and strengthening exercises may improve range of motion.

If pain becomes debilitating and is not relieved by nonsurgical options, surgery may be considered. Surgical options include: Arthroscopy (where the surgeon inserts a small camera to assess damage and possibly clean out the inside of the joint) and shoulder joint replacement called arthroplasty (where damaged parts of the shoulder are removed and replaced with artificial components).


Complications of shoulder arthritis may include pain or loss of freedom of movement in the shoulder.

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