Body Part


The shoulder is a ball and socket joint in the upper extremity that is in part responsible for the positioning of the hand in space. It is made up of the gleno-humeral joint, the acromio-clavicular joint and sternoclavicular joint. These joints are lined with cartilage (gristle) for smooth movement. Like every other joint in the body, the shoulder can suffer from wear and tear of the cartilage – arthritis. This is most commonly observed after middle age and it mainly afflicts the glenohumeral and acromioclavicular parts of the joint.


It is not clearly understood why some patients get pain from arthritis and others do not. It is almost certainly a product of increasing age, but there are also genetic, functional and environmental components to it.


The usual complaints in arthritis are pain – first on certain movements and then at rest – stiffness, weakness and crepitus (grinding sensation). In severe cases the pain can keep one awake at night.


After a history and examination, the surgeon will perform an X-ray of the shoulder to help confirm the diagnosis. Treatment starts with activity modification (avoiding if possible the actions that cause pain), painkillers and gentle physical therapy as pain allows to maintain shoulder function and strength. If symptoms persist, judicious injections of steroid may be given, though not more than 2 in the same joint in a calendar year. If these measures fail to control symptoms then you and your surgeon should discuss joint replacement surgery.