Shoulder osteoarthritis: causes, symptoms and treatment

Compared to arthrosis of the hip or knee, classic arthrosis of the shoulder joint is quite rare, but the symptoms of this disease can cause severe discomfort to the patient, so full treatment is required. Shoulder osteoarthritis (omarthrosis) is most commonly diagnosed in patients over the age of fifty. Its development is associated with a deterioration in the quality of the cartilage tissue covering the surfaces of the joints. Cartilage plays the role of a shock absorber, thanks to which the individual bone components in the shoulder joint slide optimally. With the thinning of the cartilage and the violation of its integrity, the bones in the joint begin to touch. This is a painful process that leads to reduced mobility of the joints. The progression of the disease causes the formation of osteophytes - an abnormal growth of bone tissue along the edges of the shoulder joint.

Causes of osteoarthritis of the shoulder joint

In most cases, arthrosis of the shoulder joint develops with increasing age due to the natural wear and tear of the joint. After all, such a part of the body is a rather complex structure, if it is regularly subjected to serious loads, then the likelihood of pathological changes increases.

There are cases when arthrosis of the shoulder joint appeared in younger people. A similar situation is possible if the cartilage tissue was damaged as a result of an accident (unsuccessful fall, accident, etc. ). If a person is not treated properly after an injury, the cartilage is not utilized properly and this can lead to osteoarthritis.

Sometimes the loss of cartilage tissue in the shoulder joint is the result of systemic diseases, e. g. B. rheumatoid arthritis etc.


Doctor examines a patient with shoulder osteoarthritis

There are several typical symptoms of osteoarthritis of the shoulder joint. Among them:

  • pain in the shoulder, especially at the beginning of the movement;
  • Morning stiffness and restricted mobility after a long period of "inactivity";
  • crackling, clicking, or rubbing in the shoulder joint when moving;
  • Limitation of mobility of the shoulder joint, which is progressive.

Sometimes painful sensations with arthrosis of the shoulder joint appear only after prolonged stress on this area. The intensity of the symptoms of the disease, as well as their combination with each other, can be different in different patients. However, pain usually remains a stable symptom of the disease.

If you ignore the unpleasant symptoms, the hand will hurt even more - the disease will progress. The joint cavity narrows to a minimum, the inflammatory process begins. In such a situation, the patient is disturbed by more obvious symptoms of malaise:

  • swelling of the joint;
  • severe persistent pain;
  • forced restriction of movement (up to complete immobility of the joint).

The long course of the disease can lead to atrophy of muscle mass due to the refusal of habitual activities. In such a situation, only surgery can help to cope with the disease.


Unfortunately, cartilage wear is an irreversible process. If arthrosis of the shoulder joint is at an early stage of development, the symptoms are transient and mild, then a patient with arthrosis of the shoulder joint is recommended conservative treatment aimed at restoring joint functions. Typically, therapy includes:

  • Restriction of activity and cooling of the joint until the inflammation is eliminated;
  • the use of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to reduce pain and inflammation;
  • the use of hormonal preparations for intra-articular administration (if the above means do not give the expected effect).

After suppressing the inflammatory process, treatment of osteoarthritis usually includes:

  • massages;
  • regular gymnastics (physiotherapeutic exercises);
  • physiotherapeutic procedures (shock wave therapy, laser therapy, myostimulation, phonophoresis, ozone therapy, etc. ).

It is also common for patients with osteoarthritis of the shoulder joint to prescribe medications designed to stimulate the repair of cartilage tissue. These are chondroprotective drugs.

Modern methods of conservative treatment of arthrosis of the shoulder joint

Kinesio taping of the shoulder joint in arthrosis

In order to treat destructive processes in the cartilage joint, doctors have several new techniques at their disposal.

auto plasma therapy

In this procedure, the patient is injected with his own platelet-rich plasma. It is believed that these growth factors, present in platelets, can stimulate the activity of fibroblasts - the production of collagen, hyaluronic acid and elastin. Thanks to this process, a new intercellular matrix is built and small blood vessels grow, which in turn helps to restore metabolism, activate local immunity, improve microcirculation and normalize tissue respiration. According to doctors, autoplasma therapy allows to start the full-fledged work of the synovial membrane of the joint, reduce the severity of pain and increase the range of motion in the joint.

Intra-articular injections of hyaluronic acid

The effectiveness of hyaluronic acid of non-animal origin in omarthrosis is studied only by scientists worldwide. In 2019, an article by American specialists (Department of Orthopedic Surgery, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix, AZ, USA) was published, describing the results of a preliminary study on the effectiveness of this procedure. It has been proven that hyaluronic acid is able to reduce the intensity of pain for more than six months and increase the range of motion of the affected joint.

When should an operation not be avoided?

If conservative treatment of arthrosis of the shoulder joint does not give the expected result, and the symptoms of the disease significantly reduce the patient's quality of life, the doctor may suggest surgery to restore activity to the affected area. So far, endoprosthetics, the installation of an artificial joint (bioprosthesis), can cope with this task. This is a relatively new type of surgical intervention that allows you to completely get rid of the problem of arthrosis: to restore the function of the joint and the entire upper limb, neutralize painful sensations and maintain working capacity as much as possible.