Shoulder Pain: Arthritis

June 13, 2018

Did you know that in 2011, more than 50 million people were reportedly diagnosed with some form of arthritis in the United States?

Arthritis is inflammation that takes place in one or more of your joints that causes pain and stiffness. One common area that it can occur in is your shoulder.

How Does Shoulder Arthritis Occur? 

Your upper arm bone, shoulder blade and collarbone are the three bones that make up your shoulder. Your shoulder has two joints (the acromion and the glenohumeral), both of which can be affected by arthritis. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, posttraumatic arthritis, rotator cuff tear anthropathy and avascular necrosis are all types of arthritis that can affect the shoulder.

Out of the five major types of shoulder arthritis, the most common form is osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease. This happens when the smooth cartilage that covers the ends of the bones gets worn down, allowing for the rough bone ends to rub against one another. It is usually seen in people over the age of 50. Sometimes, younger people can develop arthritis after experiencing trauma to the shoulder, like a fracture.


Pain is a common symptom of arthritis, which only becomes aggravated by activity and will continue to progress. Those with shoulder arthritis often experience a limited range of motion, making it difficult to lift the arm to complete everyday tasks. Some might even hear grinding or snapping sounds when moving the shoulder. There are a few ways to identify specific symptoms and determine which joint is causing pain. For example:

  • When the glenohumeral shoulder joint is experiencing pain, it’s usually centered in the back of the shoulder, and can be felt deep within the joint.
  • When the acromioclavicular joint is in pain, it gathers at the top of the shoulder. This pain can radiate or even travel all the way down to the side of the neck.


Initial treatment of arthritis is nonsurgical, like resting or changing the way you move the arm to avoid provoking pain. To reduce inflammation and ease shoulder discomfort, try icing it for 20 to 30 minutes several times a day. In some instances, surgical treatment may be required by a physician if your pain causes disability.

This article was adapted from OrthoInfo. Read the full article here.

If you have any questions about shoulder arthritis, please contact Campbell Clinic to meet with a physician.


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