What is it?

This is a painful, degenerative condition of the shoulder joint whereby the cartilage is worn away over time. The joint surface becomes uneven and new bone can form irregularly (osteophytes) restricting movement of the shoulder.

Why does it occur?

Osteoarthritis can be secondary to ‘wear and tear’ as you get older, but it known to be more common in those who have sustained a previous injury/surgery or conduct activities involving overuse, such as painting or swimming. A subset of patients may suffer from joint degeneration due to rheumatoid arthritis and therefore have an auto-immune element.


What are the symptoms?

Shoulder arthritis is most commonly associated with pain, stiffness and swelling. Some experience a creaking sensation felt within the shoulder when moving and restricted movement.

How is it diagnosed?

Your treating doctor will ask you a series of questions to establish whether you have any risk factors for arthritis and the severity of your symptoms.  They will also carry out a detailed examination of your joints.  In most cases the diagnosis is confirmed with an x-ray but occasionally further tests or scans may be required. 

How is it treated?

The best course of treatment for shoulder osteoarthritis depends on multiple factors including your general health, activity levels and symptom severity. Conservative options should be trialled and exhausted prior to consideration of shoulder joint replacement.


1. Non-surgical treatment

For early or minimally symptomatic osteoarthritis, non-surgical options include lifestyle modification in combination with analgesia.  Physiotherapy in the early stages is known to delay the onset and stiffness severity, or failing this steroid injections can be beneficial in reducing inflammation. Alternatively a course of hyaluronic acid injections acts to lubricate and cushion the joint producing an analgesic effect. These options can negate or postpone the need for surgery.

2. Surgical treatment

If non-surgical measures fail surgery is often indicated to relieve pain and improve function.  There are several types of shoulder joint replacement but all generally involve an implant made of metal and plastic. The definitive implant will be dependent on how your arthritis has affected you and determined by your consultant. They will discuss all of these options and the risks and benefits of each with you during your consultation.