Shoulder Arthritis - Causes, Symptoms and Treatments


Shoulder arthritis can develop from several different types of this disease, though it is most commonly associated with five specific forms of joint damage, some of which you may know as rheumatoid, osteo or post-traumatic arthritis.

The other two causes, known as avascular necrosis and rotator cuff tear arthropathy, are among those with which you may be less familiar, at least at the moment. If you or a loved one recently received any of these diagnoses, read on so you can better understand the latter of these conditions.

Avascular Necrosis

Avascular necrosis, or simply, death without blood supply, results when the tip of the large bone in your arm, known as the humerus, receives little to no blood. Your blood supplies oxygen and nutrients that this bone, the joint to which it connects, and the cartilage surrounding that joint, all need to grow and stay strong.

If the blood cannot travel to these areas, the cells begin to die and damage to the joint follows, thus causing shoulder arthritis.

Fortunately, this disease occurs over time and goes through a number of stages, giving you a chance to catch and correct the problem before it spreads or does any real damage.

Additionally, you can reduce your risk of developing this problem by avoiding steroid use and alcohol. You can also talk to your primary care provider about periodically monitoring for changes in your shoulder if you ever had an injury to this area or if you have sickle cell disease.

By being aware of the risk factors, you can prevent avascular necrosis or at least slow down its progress, unless it is idiopathic, in which case the cause is unknown.


Arthro, meaning arthritic and pathy, referring to the disease path, is a term that can apply to a number of diseases but for now, it relates to the destruction of your rotator cuff and the way in which it eventually becomes arthritic. Your rotator cuff is not just one piece but rather, it refers to a few muscles and tendons whose sole purpose is to provide your shoulder with support, strength and stability while allowing it to move. If this part of your shoulder tears, your movements become weak and pain is present.

A rotator cuff tear may heal on its own, though surgery is sometimes necessary, but in either case, your doctor should prescribe pain medications and anti-inflammatory agents. Depending on a variety of factors, such as severity of the tear, time between injury and treatment, age and overall health, this injury could cause shoulder arthritis.

If the injury becomes worse because of continued use or no treatment, the humerus begins to rub against the scapula, or shoulder blade, thereby leading to bone deterioration, further inflammation, pain and ultimately, arthritis of the shoulder.

It is also important to note that a rotator cuff tear is an injury and can occur at any time, even if you already have shoulder arthritis. If you happen to have both of these conditions at the same time, moving your arm may be difficult or impossible because of the injury, inflammation, weakness and severe pain.

In this instance, you must rest your arm completely and if you normally do exercises to alleviate your arthritis, do not do them during this time, as it can worsen your condition and your symptoms.

Shoulder arthritis is an unpleasant form of the arthritic conditions for which no cure currently exists, as is the case with other forms of arthritis. If you feel weakness, pain, tenderness, or a gritty movement in your shoulder joint, talk to your primary care provider and work with them to obtain a correct diagnosis so you can start receiving treatment as soon as possible.

Assistive Aids Help Ease Pain and Movement

Heated Mattress Pad - using a heating pad on cool or damp nights also prevents joint stiffness and achiness.

Adaptive Clothing - you might be able to put on without difficulty is a top with a Velcro closure or a zipper.

Toilet Aid - help people with disabilities or the elderly maintain their sense of self-worth when performing the basic functions most people take for granted.

Book Holder - With sore fingers, wrists, elbows, or shoulders, it may be hard to hold a book for even a short time, this adaptive aid still lets you enjoy your favorite pasttime.

General Grabber - a helpful household tool for arthritis sufferers and aids in the prevention of injury, inflammation and over extension of the muscles.

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