Shoulder Osteo-arthritis


Shoulder osteoarthritis, also known as glenohumeral osteoarthritis, is a degenerative joint condition that affects the shoulder. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of bones within a joint gradually wears down over time. In the case of shoulder osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the shoulder joint (glenohumeral joint) deteriorates, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion in the shoulder.

Key features of shoulder osteoarthritis include:

  • Cartilage Degeneration: The smooth cartilage covering the surfaces of the shoulder joint deteriorates, causing friction between the bones during movement.
  • Bone Spurs: As a response to the loss of cartilage, the body may form bone spurs (osteophytes) around the edges of the joint. These bony growths can contribute to pain and further restrict movement.
  • Inflammation: The inflammation of the joint lining (synovitis) may occur, adding to pain and discomfort.
  • Pain and Stiffness: Individuals with shoulder osteoarthritis often experience pain, especially during movement or weight-bearing activities. Stiffness may also be present, limiting the ability to move the shoulder smoothly.
  • Limited Range of Motion: The combination of cartilage loss, bone spurs, and inflammation can lead to a reduced range of motion in the affected shoulder.
  • Weakness: Over time, the muscles around the shoulder joint may weaken due to disuse and pain, further compromising joint function.

Several factors can contribute to the development of shoulder osteoarthritis, including age, genetics, joint overuse or trauma, and obesity. While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, various treatment options aim to manage symptoms and improve the quality of life for individuals with this condition. These may include medications, physical therapy, lifestyle modifications, and in some cases, surgical interventions such as joint replacement surgery.

Clinical Presentation

The clinical presentation of shoulder osteoarthritis can vary from person to person, but common signs and symptoms typically include:

  • Pain: Persistent pain in the shoulder joint is a hallmark symptom of osteoarthritis. The pain is often deep within the joint and may be exacerbated by movement or weight-bearing activities.
  • Stiffness: Individuals with shoulder osteoarthritis may experience stiffness in the affected joint, especially after periods of inactivity or rest. This stiffness can limit the range of motion.
  • Reduced Range of Motion: Osteoarthritis can lead to a gradual loss of range of motion in the shoulder joint. This limitation may affect activities such as reaching overhead, lifting objects, or rotating the arm.
  • Crepitus:A grinding or grating sensation (crepitus) may be felt or heard when moving the shoulder. This noise is often due to the rubbing of bones against each other as a result of cartilage loss.
  • Weakness: Muscular weakness around the shoulder joint may develop over time due to pain and reduced use of the affected arm. Weakness can contribute to difficulty in performing daily activities.
  • Tenderness: The shoulder joint may be tender to the touch, especially over areas with bone spurs or inflammation.
  • Swelling: In some cases, there may be mild swelling around the shoulder joint due to inflammation of the synovial lining.
  • Difficulty Sleeping: Shoulder pain and discomfort can interfere with sleep, particularly when lying on the affected side.
  • Functional Impairment: Osteoarthritis of the shoulder can impact daily activities and reduce the overall function of the affected arm. This can affect tasks such as dressing, grooming, and reaching for objects.

It’s important to note that the progression of shoulder osteoarthritis is gradual, and symptoms may worsen over time. The severity of symptoms can vary, and not everyone with shoulder osteoarthritis will experience all of these symptoms. If someone is experiencing persistent shoulder pain, stiffness, or functional limitations, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional for a comprehensive evaluation and appropriate management.

Treatment Options

The treatment of shoulder osteoarthritis aims to manage symptoms, improve joint function, and enhance the overall quality of life. Treatment options may vary depending on the severity of symptoms and individual factors. Common approaches include:

  • Pain Medications: Non-prescription or prescription pain medications, such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), may be recommended to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. However, long-term use of NSAIDs should be monitored due to potential side effects.
  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy can be beneficial for improving shoulder strength, flexibility, and range of motion. Therapists may recommend specific exercises to target the affected muscles and joints.
  • Activity Modification: Adjustments to daily activities and work tasks may be suggested to reduce strain on the shoulder joint. Avoiding repetitive overhead movements and minimising heavy lifting can help manage symptoms.
  • Heat and Cold Therapy: Applying heat or cold to the affected shoulder can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. Heat packs or cold packs may be used, depending on individual preferences.
  • Assistive Devices: The use of assistive devices, such as braces or slings, may help support the shoulder joint and reduce stress on the affected area.
  • Joint Injections: Corticosteroid injections into the shoulder joint can provide temporary relief by reducing inflammation. These injections are typically administered by a healthcare professional.
  • Topical Creams and Gels: Over-the-counter or prescription topical creams and gels containing NSAIDs or other pain-relieving ingredients may be applied directly to the affected area.
  • Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce stress on the joints, including the shoulder. Weight management through a balanced diet and regular exercise is important for overall joint health.
  • Lifestyle Modifications: Adopting a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a balanced diet, can contribute to overall joint health and may help manage symptoms.
  • Surgical Interventions: In cases where conservative measures are not effective, and the symptoms are severe, surgical options may be considered. Surgical procedures may include arthroscopy, joint debridement, or in more advanced cases, shoulder joint replacement surgery.

To schedule an appointment with Dr Matthew Evans to discuss your Shoulder Osteo-arthritis, please contact us by phone – (03) 9529 3820, or email

Call Now ButtonCall Now