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older woman sitting down and holding shoulder in pain

Shoulder arthritis results from damage or wear to the cartilage in the shoulder joint. If left untreated, shoulder arthritis can become very painful and interfere with your ability to perform daily tasks. If shoulder arthritis affects your life, a Penn orthopaedic specialist can restore your mobility and relieve your pain.

  • Osteoarthritis: The most common type of shoulder arthritis, which occurs as a result of overuse or aging
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: An autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the joints and joint tissues, causing inflammation and damage in the shoulder
  • Post-traumatic arthritis: Inflammation and joint damage caused by an injury to the shoulder joint

Shoulder Arthritis Symptoms

Symptoms of shoulder arthritis can vary, depending upon the severity of your condition. Symptoms may include:

  • Grinding, popping or cracking of the shoulder joint
  • Pain that disrupts your sleep
  • Pain that occurs during activity or motion
  • Tenderness in the shoulder joint area
  • Stiffness and swelling

Diagnosing Shoulder Arthritis

To diagnose shoulder arthritis, a Penn orthopaedic specialist evaluates your symptoms, examines your shoulder and arm, asks about any recent injuries or underlying conditions and takes a full medical history. Typically, X-Rays or advanced imaging of the affected shoulder will be obtained to aid in making the correct diagnosis.

Each patients treatment plan is specific to their diagnosis, personal needs and goals for treatment.

Shoulder Arthritis Treatment

Penn orthopaedic specialists emphasize a conservative approach to treating shoulder arthritis through nonsurgical techniques, when possible. Many people find that their pain and function greatly improve through simple, noninvasive therapies.

Nonsurgical treatments for shoulder arthritis include:

  • Activity modification
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Corticosteroid injection into the shoulder joint
  • Gentle range-of-motion exercises/physical therapy
  • Icing or applying heat to the shoulder joint

If these methods do not offer enough relief, surgery may be recommended to treat your shoulder arthritis. We perform the latest surgical techniques for the treatment of shoulder arthritis. Your physician will discuss these options with you.

Surgery for Shoulder Arthritis

If your pain and discomfort do not get better through more conservative treatments, surgery may be your best option. Our orthopaedic surgeons are highly skilled in the latest advancements in surgical treatment to help restore your range of motion and relieve your pain. We helped pioneer many shoulder surgery techniques, including total shoulder replacement and advanced arthroscopy techniques.

Depending on the type and severity of your shoulder arthritis, your surgeon may recommend one or more of the following surgeries:

Total Shoulder Replacement

If your arthritis is severe, you may require a total shoulder replacement. A conventional shoulder replacement device replaces the normal anatomy of the shoulder. A plastic prosthetic cup is fitted onto the shoulder socket, and a metal ball is attached to the top of the humerus.

Patients who receive a total shoulder replacement experience an improved quality of life, restored function and relief of pain.

Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement

In a reverse total shoulder replacement, the socket and the metal ball are switched. The metal ball is fixed to the socket, and the cup is attached to the humerus.

Reverse total shoulder replacements are beneficial for individuals who suffer from shoulder arthritis. Individuals who undergo a reverse total shoulder replacement experience reduced pain, restored function and greater range of motion.

Advanced Arthroscopic Techniques

Arthroscopic techniques refer to procedures in which an orthopaedic surgeon makes a small incision in the skin and then inserts a thin instrument called an arthroscope. The arthroscope contains a small lens and light that allows surgeons to see the structures inside the shoulder joint. Using tiny instruments, they are able to remove damaged arthritic tissues.

These minimally invasive techniques allow for quicker recovery times, less pain and improved outcomes. They are typically used for individuals with less advanced arthritis.

Shoulder Ligament Reconstruction

At Penn, orthopaedic surgeons perform shoulder ligament reconstruction on many patients whose arthritis has caused damage to the ligaments in their shoulder.

We use arthroscopic techniques to perform ligament reconstruction. We are highly skilled in our ability to repair ligaments and other soft tissues to improve functionality.

By strengthening and repairing ligaments that have been damaged, patients experience greater function, less pain and improved quality of life.

Shoulder Arthritis Surgery Recovery

After surgery, your arm and shoulder will be in a sling for approximately four to six weeks. Your doctor will recommend that you get plenty of rest during this time.

From day one, your surgeon will work with you on specific range-of-motion exercises to regain mobility without damaging the shoulder while it heals.

Personalized Rehabilitation Programs for Shoulder Arthritis

Recovery from shoulder arthritis surgery is different for everyone, taking anywhere from several weeks to months. Penn physical therapists, orthopaedic specialists and pain management specialists create your recovery plan based on the severity of your arthritis condition and the type of surgery you had.

Your treatment does not end with your surgery: We offer ongoing follow-up care that ensures you regain maximum mobility and function. You should speak with your surgeon about what recovery might involve for your particular condition.

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