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Treatment for Arthritis of Shoulder

Arthritis-of-shoulder

TREATMENT

Nonsurgical Treatment

As with other arthritic conditions, initial treatment of arthritis of the shoulder is nonsurgical. Your doctor may recommend the following treatment options:

  • Rest or change in activities to avoid provoking pain. You may need to change the way you move your arm to do things.
  • Physical therapy exercises may improve the range of motion in your shoulder.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, may reduce inflammation and pain. These medications can irritate the stomach lining and cause internal bleeding. They should be taken with food. Consult with your doctor before taking over-the-counter NSAIDs if you have a history of ulcers or are taking blood thinning medication.
  • Corticosteroid injections in the shoulder can dramatically reduce the inflammation and pain. However, the effect is often temporary.
  • Moist heat
  • Ice your shoulder for 20 to 30 minutes two or three times a day to reduce inflammation and ease pain.
  • If you have rheumatoid arthritis, your doctor may prescribe a disease-modifying drug, such as methotrexate.
  • Dietary supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate may help relieve pain. (Note: There is little scientific evidence to support the use of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to treat arthritis. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not test dietary supplements. These compounds may cause negative interactions with other medications. Always consult your doctor before taking dietary supplements.)

Surgical Treatment

Your doctor may consider surgery if your pain causes disability and is not relieved with nonsurgical options.

Arthroscopy. Cases of mild glenohumeral arthritis may be treated with arthroscopy, During arthroscopy, the surgeon inserts a small camera, called an arthroscope, into the shoulder joint. The camera displays pictures on a television screen, and the surgeon uses these images to guide miniature surgical instruments.

Because the arthroscope and surgical instruments are thin, the surgeon can use very small incisions (cuts), rather than the larger incision needed for standard, open surgery.

During the procedure, your surgeon can debride (clean out) the inside of the joint. Although the procedure provides pain relief, it will not eliminate the arthritis from the joint. If the arthritis progresses, further surgery may be needed in the future.

Shoulder joint replacement (arthroplasty). Advanced arthritis of the glenohumeral joint can be treated with shoulder replacement surgery, in which the damaged parts of the shoulder are removed and replaced with artificial components, called a prosthesis.

Replacement surgery options include:

  • Hemiarthroplasty. Just the head of the humerus is replaced by an artificial component.
  • Total shoulder arthroplasty. Both the head of the humerus and the glenoid are replaced. A plastic “cup” is fitted into the glenoid, and a metal “ball” is attached to the top of the humerus.
  • Reverse total shoulder arthroplasty. In a reverse total shoulder replacement, the socket and metal ball are opposite a conventional total shoulder arthroplasty. The metal ball is fixed to the glenoid and the plastic cup is fixed to the upper end of the humerus. A reverse total shoulder replacement works better for people with cuff tear arthropathy because it relies on different muscles — not the rotator cuff — to move the arm.
Illustrations of total shoulder replacement and reverse total shoulder replacement

 

(Left) A conventional total shoulder replacement (arthroplasty) mimics the normal anatomy of the shoulder. (Right) In a reverse total shoulder replacement, the plastic cup inserts on the humerus, and the metal ball screws into the shoulder socket. 

 

 

Resection arthroplasty. The most common surgical procedure used to treat arthritis of the acromioclavicular joint is a resection arthroplasty. Your surgeon may choose to do this arthroscopically.

In this procedure, a small amount of bone from the end of the collarbone is removed, leaving a space that gradually fills in with scar tissue.

Recovery. Surgical treatment of arthritis of the shoulder is generally very effective in reducing pain and restoring motion. Recovery time and rehabilitation plans depend upon the type of surgery performed.

Pain management. After surgery, you will feel some pain. This is a natural part of the healing process. Your doctor and nurses will work to reduce your pain, which can help you recover from surgery faster.

Medications are often prescribed for short-term pain relief after surgery. Many types of medicines are available to help manage pain, including opioids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and local anesthetics. Your doctor may use a combination of these medications to improve pain relief, as well as minimize the need for opioids.

Be aware that although opioids help relieve pain after surgery, they are a narcotic and can be addictive. Opioid dependency and overdose has become a critical public health issue in the U.S. It is important to use opioids only as directed by your doctor. As soon as your pain begins to improve, stop taking opioids. Talk to your doctor if your pain has not begun to improve within a few days of your surgery.

Complications. As with all surgeries, there are some risks and possible complications. Potential problems after shoulder surgery include infection, excessive bleeding, blood clots, and damage to blood vessels or nerves.

Your surgeon will discuss the possible complications with you before your operation.

Future Developments

Research is being conducted on shoulder arthritis and its treatment.

  • In many cases, it is not known why some people develop arthritis and others do not. Research is being done to uncover some of the causes of arthritis of the shoulder.
  • Joint lubricants, which are currently being used for treatment of knee arthritis, are being studied in the shoulder.
  • New medications to treat rheumatoid arthritis are being investigated.
  • Much research is being done on shoulder joint replacement surgery, including the development of different joint prosthesis designs.
  • The use of biologic materials to resurface an arthritic shoulder is also being studied. Biologic materials are tissue grafts that promote growth of new tissue in the body and foster healing.

SOURCE: Department of Research & Scientific Affairs, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Rosemont, IL: AAOS; January 2013. Based on data from the National Health Interview Survey, 2008-2011; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Center for Health Statistics.

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