Skip to main content

Understanding Shoulder Osteoarthritis


Shoulder osteoarthritis, also referred to as glenohumeral osteoarthritis, is a degenerative joint disease that affects the shoulder joint. It is a common condition that can cause pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion in the shoulder. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the various aspects of shoulder osteoarthritis, including its symptoms, causes, and multiple treatment options.


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

  1. Shoulder pain: Individuals with shoulder osteoarthritis often experience pain in the shoulder joint, which can range from mild to severe. The pain may worsen with activity.
  2. Stiffness: Stiffness in the shoulder joint is another common symptom. Individuals may find it difficult to move their shoulder freely, especially after periods of inactivity.
  3. Limited range of motion: Shoulder osteoarthritis can lead to a decreased range of motion in the affected shoulder. This can make it challenging to perform everyday tasks that require overhead movements or reaching behind the back.
  4. Swelling and tenderness: In some cases, the shoulder joint may become swollen and tender to the touch; this can further contribute to discomfort and limited mobility.


Several factors can contribute to the development of shoulder osteoarthritis, including:

  1. Age: As we age, the cartilage in our joints naturally wears down. This can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis in the shoulder joint.
  2. Previous injuries: Individuals who have experienced shoulder injuries, such as fractures or dislocations, may be more prone to developing osteoarthritis in the shoulder.
  3. Overuse or repetitive movements: Activities that involve repetitive shoulder movements or excessive stress on the joint, such as certain sports or occupations, can contribute to the development of shoulder osteoarthritis.
  4. Genetics: Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to developing osteoarthritis, including in the shoulder joint.

Treatment Options:

There are various treatment options available for managing shoulder osteoarthritis. These include:

  1. Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce pain and inflammation in the shoulder joint. Although NSAIDs do reduce inflammation to temporarily relieve pain, they are responsible for 30% of hospital admissions for adverse drug side effects, mainly due to bleeding, heart attack, stroke, and kidney damage. In addition, from the first day of use, all NSAIDs increase the risk of gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding, myocardial infarction, and stroke.
  2. Physical therapy: A physical therapist can design a customized exercise program to improve shoulder strength, flexibility, and range of motion.
  3. Assistive devices: The use of assistive devices, such as braces or slings, can provide support to the shoulder joint and help reduce pain during daily activities.
  4. Lifestyle modifications: Making certain lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding repetitive shoulder movements, and practicing good posture, can help manage symptoms and slow down the progression of shoulder osteoarthritis.
  5. Injections: Corticosteroid injections may be recommended to reduce inflammation and relieve pain in certain conditions. Side effects of cortisone, which is commonly injected for joint pain, includes thinning of the skin, easy bruising, weight gain, puffiness of the face, elevation of blood pressure, cataract formation, thinning of the bones, and a rare but serious form of damage to large joints (avascular necrosis). Due to risks, patients may only get this treatment once every several months.
  6. Surgical interventions: In severe cases where conservative treatments have not provided sufficient relief, surgical options such as arthroscopy or joint replacement surgery may be considered.


Shoulder osteoarthritis can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life, but with proper understanding and management, it is possible to alleviate symptoms and improve shoulder function. By following the comprehensive guide provided here, individuals can gain valuable insights into the condition, its symptoms, causes, and multiple treatment options, empowering them to make informed decisions about their shoulder health.

Close Menu