Make the Best Decision About Health Care for Your Arthritic Shoulder
There are numerous medical care options available to you for reducing the symptoms of degenerative joint disease in your shoulders, many without the need for surgical intervention. If you haven’t had the chance to talk to a doctor about which treatment option for shoulder osteoarthritis will work for you, it may be time to give one a call. At Rothman Institute, we believe that education is the first step on the road to living a healthier, more comfortable lifestyle.
What is shoulder osteoarthritis?
When searching for the best treatment option for shoulder osteoarthritis, it’s important to understand the condition itself. Also known as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is the physical erosion of the protective tissue in your joints known as cartilage. As the cartilage in your shoulder breaks down for a variety of reasons, the humerus (upper arm bone) and the scapula (shoulder blade) can rub together uncomfortably, causing pain, swelling, catching or grinding, and lost range of motion. If you are suffering from these symptoms, and have not seen a doctor, shoulder osteoarthritis diagnosis and management may help you live a fuller, less painful life.
What treatment options do I have?
The treatment option for shoulder osteoarthritis that you have will depend on several factors, including your age, severity of symptoms, and activity level. There are a number of non-surgical and surgical possibilities, depending on the type and location of the arthritis. When making a choice about shoulder pain osteoarthritis therapy, it’s important to talk to your doctor honestly and openly about your symptoms, other conditions, lifestyle, concerns, and questions, so that together you can make the best possible decision.
Will decreasing my activity help my osteoarthritis?
Yes, decreasing activity may help your osteoarthritis. Overhead or heavy labor activities can aggravate arthritis of the shoulder. It is, however, important to maintain a good range of motion and muscle strength in an arthritic joint, so decreasing activity too much is actually counter-productive. Non-impact activities such as swimming can be beneficial, since they help encourage range of motion without putting undue stress on the joint. Heavy weight lifting can also worsen arthritis of the shoulder, especially bench pressing or overhead pressing, so talk to your doctor or trainer about how to exercise safely.
Can physical therapy help my condition?
Yes, physical therapy is often an effective treatment for cases of mild to moderate degenerative joint disease. Your doctor or physical therapist can teach you shoulder osteoarthritis exercises that can strengthen your joints, and improve their range of motion. While physical therapy is a terrific treatment option for shoulder osteoarthritis, it’s important not to undertake any treatment or exercise program without the direct supervision of a doctor and physical therapist.
Are there medications I can take for my arthritis?
The most common medications used for osteoarthritis are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These medications help by decreasing pain and inflammation in an arthritic joint. For patients who get severe gastrointestinal upset due to medication, some newer agents called COX-2 inhibitors may decrease the likelihood of upset stomach or ulcers during medication use. Most importantly, you should always follow your physician's instructions when taking medications.
What about taking Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate?
The use of oral glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate have been shown in some studies to cause mild to moderate improvement in patients’ osteoarthritis symptoms. For this reason, they can be beneficial for your pain. There are no studies available to demonstrate any long-term benefit from these medications in preventing future arthritis.
Would it help to get a steroid injection?
Intra-articular steroids (such as cortisone) can provide significant short-term pain relief in patients with advanced arthritis. The injections only last between a few weeks and three months. Occasionally, they can provide longer benefits if the pain is due an acute episode of inflammation. Injections are generally limited to three or four a year, although there are no specific guidelines. The use of injections should be carefully considered as too many injections can weaken the surrounding tissues and have systemic side effects.
Are there other types of injections I can receive?
There has been recent interest in intraarticular injections of hyaluronan. These injections are an attempt to improve joint lubrication by providing some components found in normal joint fluid. These injections are given weekly, either three or five times. These injections are commonly given in the knee, but they are not currently FDA approved for use in the shoulder.
Is surgery the best treatment option for shoulder osteoarthritis?
Surgery can be an effective treatment option for shoulder osteoarthritis, but only you and your doctor can determine whether it is right for you. For those with severe degenerative joint disease of the shoulder, removal of the arthritic surfaces of the joint and replacement with a prosthetic can reduce pain and improve range of motion. This is called total shoulder replacement. If you’ve been living with symptoms of severe shoulder osteoarthritis, and non-surgical options have failed to keep your pain under control, total shoulder replacement surgery may be an option to investigate.
What’s the best option for me?
The best treatment option for shoulder osteoarthritis” varies because everyone’s body and their needs are different. The best thing you can do for your arthritis is to see an expert orthopaedist who can analyze your specific case, and help you make decisions about what kind of therapy would work best for you. At Rothman Institute, we treat each patient as an individual, and tailor their treatment specifically to their needs.
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