What is it?
What Is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, occurs when the cartilage that covers the tops of bones, known as articular cartilage, degenerates or wears down. This causes swelling, pain, and sometimes the development of osteophytes, bone spurs, when the ends of the two bones rub together.

What Is Osteoarthritis of the Shoulder?

The shoulder is made up of two joints:
  • The Acromioclavicular (AC) joint is the point where the collarbone, or clavicle, meets the acromion, which is the tip of the shoulder blade. 
  • The glenohumeral (GH) joint is the point where the top of the arm bone, or humerus, meets the shoulder blade, or scapula. 
Osteoarthritis is more commonly found in the AC joint.

Your risk of developing osteoarthritis of the shoulder increases with age. However, an injury, such as a dislocated shoulder or shoulder fracture, can lead to shoulder osteoarthritis even in young people. 
Signs and symptoms
The most common complaint of someone with shoulder arthritis is pain. The pain worsens with activities, especially with any activities that require the arms to reach over the head, and decreases with rest. 

Arthritis of the GH joint usually hurts mostly in the back of the shoulder while AC arthritis hurts mostly in the front of the shoulder at the end of the collar bone. 

The next most common complaint is loss of motion, which is much more severe in people with GH arthritis. In addition, the motion of the shoulder can sometimes feel like grinding (crepitus) as the bones rub on one another. 
Fortunately, not everyone who develops arthritis develops pain and loss of motion. In fact, some people with severe joint destruction have very few symptoms. 
How is it treated?
The initial treatments for osteoarthritis of the shoulder - do not involve surgery. These treatments include:

Resting the shoulder joint. 
This could mean that the person with arthritis has to change the way he or she moves his or her arm while performing the activities of daily life. For example the person might wear clothing that zips up at the front instead of clothing that goes over the head. Or the person might prop up a hairdryer instead of holding it up for a long period of time.

Medication. Taking over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or aspirin. These medications will reduce inflammation and pain. Check with your doctor to make sure you can take these drugs safely.

Performing Hand therapy. Performing range-of-movement exercises. These exercises are used in an attempt to increase flexibility.

Applying moist heat.

Applying ice to the shoulder. Ice is applied for 20 minutes two or three times a day to decrease inflammation and pain.

Using other medications prescribed by the doctor. These might include injections of corticosteroids or hyaluronic acid into the joint.
Surgical options
If non-surgical treatments do not work effectively, there are surgical treatments available. As with any surgery, there are certain risks and potential complications including infection or problems with anaesthesia. 

Surgical treatments include:

Shoulder joint replacement (total shoulder arthroplasty). 
Replacing the whole shoulder with an artificial joint is usually done to treat arthritis of the glenohumeral joint.
Replacement of the head of the humerus, or upper arm bone (hemiarthroplasty). This option, too, is used to treat arthritis of the glenohumeral joint.
Removal of a small piece of the end of the collarbone (resection arthroplasty). This option is the most common procedure for treating arthritis of the AC joint. After the removal of the end of the bone, the space fills with scar tissue.
Treatment at Hand Kinetics
At Hand Kinetics you can expect as assessment of your range of motion in your whole arm and advice on how to adapt your position when performing activities to reduce pain and improve performance.

There are times when it is helpful to use some assistive aids to maintain pain free independence such as long handled hair brushes, easy reachers, key turners etc.
At Hand Kinetics you can trial our demo equipment to see what your preferences are and in some cases you can begin using your new tool on the same day.

Learning the safe ways to perform exercises for the entire arm are a very important part of maintaining the health of the shoulder joint. If you have had a joint replacement or shoulder surgery then these exercises are vital to achieve the best outcomes.

Please talk to our principal therapist at Hand Kinetics to discuss your specific needs and shoulder problem before making an appointment and we will be happy to discuss treatment options with you.

Hand Kinetics Telephone: 0044 28 417 72301

15 The Avenue, Burren, Warrenpoint. Co. Down. BT34 3XJ

0044 28 4176 7238
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