Shoulder Osteoarthritis

A picture of a man holding the front of his right shoulder. The shoulder and hand are illuminated in red, signifying pain from shoulder osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a common shoulder condition that can cause severe pain and dysfunction. It can be treated successfully.

Osteoarthritis (OA) or degenerative arthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It affects millions of people. Osteoarthritis results from loss of the protective cartilage that provides the cushion for the joint. Osteoarthritis happens from a combination of wear and tear, life experiences, and a genetic predisposition. It can happen after a single injury. In this case, it is called post-traumatic osteoarthritis.

Shoulder osteoarthritis occurs when it specifically affects the shoulder. It is not as common as OA affecting the knee and hip, probably because the shoulder is not a weight bearing joint.

A picture of a normal shoulder x-ray on the right, and an arthritic x-ray on the left. There are white arrows pointing to bone spurs
Normal Shoulder X-ray vs. OA

Symptoms of Shoulder Osteoarthritis

Shoulder osteoarthritis commonly presents as pain in the front of the shoulder, worse with activities. It is commonly progressive, luckily usually very slowly. When severe, shoulder osteoarthritis can waken you at night. Occasionally, the joint swells. When severe, you will have functional limitations because of the inability to move it normally. You may feel weakness because of pain. In shoulder OA, the rotator cuff is typically normal, so you are in fact, strong. Often you will feel a combination of crunching, snapping, and popping in the shoulder.


The mainstay of treatment for shoulder osteoarthritis is to minimize symptoms by avoiding strenuous activities affecting the shoulder. The best medications are anti-inflammatories; either NSAIDs such Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or all natural anti-inflammatories, like Nature’s Trifecta®. I generally do not prescribe physical therapy in shoulder OA, because this often worsens the symptoms.  When non-operative treatments are ineffective and your symptoms are severe and affecting your activities of daily living, it is time to consider surgery.

There are several different surgeries for shoulder osteoarthritis, but the definitive one is total shoulder replacement. This restores the normal mechanics of the shoulder and gives long-lasting pain relief under normal circumstances.

A frontal x-ray of a total shoulder replacement
Total Shoulder Replacement

In summary, shoulder osteoarthritis is a common condition that can be successfully treated, both non-operatively and with surgery.


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Nature’s Trifecta. An all-natural pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant*. 1320mg Standardized 95% Curcuminoids. With Black Pepper Extract and Organic Alma Powder


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