Rehab Select Blog

9 Treatments for Shoulder Osteoarthritis

Posted by Bobby Stephenson

Dec 13, 2016, 8:00:00 AM

9 Treatments for Shoulder OsteoarthritisIf you have shoulder pain that has been diagnosed as shoulder osteoarthritis, a number of treatment options are available to ease the pain, stiffness and discomfort this degenerative joint disease can cause. These range from topical treatments to oral medications, orthopedic rehabilitation, and, in serious cases, surgical solutions. Here we'll outline 9 common treatments for shoulder arthritis, information that can help you make solid decisions about your care as you work with your healthcare providers to find the right treatment or combination of treatments to ease the impact of this disease on your daily life.

  1. Lifestyle/activity adjustments: Your healthcare team may suggest changes in the way you manage your daily activities to reduce pain and inflammation and slow the progression of joint damage. This may include limiting or eliminating some activities, changing the way you move your arm during others, and taking more frequent breaks to rest your shoulder.

  2. Topical medications: Some topical ointments and creams can offer relief of osteoarthritis symptoms, such as pain, stiffness and inflammation. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter topical medications or prescription-strength solutions to ease your symptoms.

  3. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs): Ibuprofen and aspirin are common examples of NSAIDs, which can help reduce inflammation in affected joints and ease joint pain. These are also also available in over-the-counter formulations or as prescription-strength medications.

  4. Corticosteroid injections: Placed directly into the affected joint, these injections can greatly (though usually temporarily) reduce inflammation and pain.

  5. Heat and cold therapies: Applying moist heat to affected joints can decrease pain and make movement easier. Applying ice after activity can reduce post-exercise pain and inflammation.

  6. Orthopedic rehabilitation/physical therapy: Physical therapy can help shoulder osteoarthritis sufferers stretch and strengthen the muscles that support the function of the shoulder joint, which can decrease pain and stiffness and increase range of motion. Orthopedic rehabilitation programs combine physical therapy with other therapeutic interventions, such as occupational therapy, patient education, nutritional counseling and pain management, among others, in a comprehensive treatment plan, working to improve the condition and function of the affected joint and help patients learn how to protect against further joint damage, compensate for functional limitations and manage their symptoms more effectively. Additionally, orthopedic rehabilitation is also commonly used to promote optimal recovery and rehabilitation in those who have had surgical treatment for shoulder osteoarthritis.

  7. Arthroscopy: This is a surgical treatment option in which surgeons make small incisions in order to clean out (debride) the joint, removing loose bits of cartilage and other debris to reduce pain and improve joint function.

  • Resection arthroplasty: This is a surgery that removes a small amount of bone from the end of the collarbone, leaving a space that gradually fills with scar tissue, thus reducing friction in the arthritic shoulder joint.

  • Shoulder joint replacement: This surgery replaces a damaged shoulder joint, either partially or totally, to restore function and improve or eliminate joint pain, stiffness and inflammation.

Most likely, your healthcare providers will advise that your treatment should begin with non-surgical options, with the goal of avoiding—or at least delaying—surgical intervention. Surgery is typically recommended only when less invasive treatment options fail to control osteoarthritis symptoms or when severe joint deterioration/damage is present, making non-surgical options unlikely to be effective.

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Topics: Orthopedic Rehabilitation