Shoulder Osteoarthritis:

  • Osteoarthritis of the shoulder is much less common in comparison to osteoarthritis of the hips or knees
  • It is none the less still a debilitating condition that can have a significant impact on a patient’s quality of life.
  • Patients are usually 65 years and over

Possible Causes :

  • Prior shoulder surgery or intervention
  • History of trauma (i.e. a fall/previous fracture)
  • Inflammatory conditions (i.e. rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Overuse injuries (i.e. overarm sports and weight lifters)


X-Ray showing Osteoarthritis of the Shoulder
X-Ray showing Osteoarthritis of the Shoulder

Subjective Assessment :

  • The patient will complain of a stiff and painful shoulder
  • They may report a restriction In movement and hence difficulty with functional activities
  • Interruption of sleep and difficulty getting comfortable at night is common
  • The patient may report a ‘grinding’ , ‘grating’ or ‘clicking’ sensation in the shoulder

Objective Assessment :

  • Global restriction in movement
  • Stiffness on palpation of the glenohumeral joint
  • Active = passive range of movement
  • X-Ray evidence of osteoarthritis

Treatment :

  • Refer to Physiotherapy for exercises and manual therapy to prevent any further stiffness and restriction in movement
  • Painkillers and anti-inflammatories
  • Steroid injections –may give short term relief to the patient, though period is unpredictable due to the wide variability of the disease
  • Surgery can be considered once the patient has completed 3 months of conservative management and Physiotherapy
  • Patients may initially be offered arthroscopic treatment but this is usually only a temporary measure before the patient eventually needs an arthroplasty
  • A shoulder replacement is indicated where there is severe, non-resolvable pain or previous failed treatment options


  • Image from OpenI – Licensed by CC
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