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Here's How Osteoarthritis Affects Your Shoulders

Think of all the things your shoulders help you do: lift a child, hug a friend, reach for your coat, even brush your teeth. When you have pain in your shoulder joint, your whole life changes. And if you think it’s just something you’re destined to live with, think again.

Dr. Jay Shah at Samwell Institute for Pain Management can diagnose your shoulder pain and get you started on the right treatment plan so you can get your life back. Whether you’re suffering from tendonitis, bursitis, frozen shoulder, or a rotator cuff injury, Dr. Shah, who serves on the board of directors of the American Society of Pain and Neuroscience, specializes in customizing your pain relief using an integrated approach of a wide range of proven, advanced techniques.

If Dr. Shah determines you have osteoarthritis in your shoulder, you can count on him to get you back in the swing of your normal life with less pain and more mobility. 

Is arthritis inevitable?

Yes and no. There are two main types of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that affects your joints by attacking the membranes that line and protect them. It’s generally considered a genetic disease, but environmental factors may have a role as well.

Osteoarthritis is more common and is definitely related to the aging process. It’s a degenerative disease, which means it happens gradually over time. This type of arthritis occurs as a result of the wear and tear that inevitably takes place inside your joints after years of constant use. 

That means that osteoarthritis, at least to some degree, is inevitable as you age. If you get it in your shoulder joint, here’s what you can expect.

What’s happening inside my osteoarthritic shoulder?

As the cartilage inside your joint deteriorates, the friction between the tissues increases. The result is the signature pain and stiffness associated with the condition. 

Two of the four joints in your shoulder are especially susceptible to osteoarthritis: the glenohumeral joint, where the top of your upper arm bone fits into your scapula socket, and the acromioclavicular joint, where your collarbone meets your scapula. 

Once osteoarthritis sets into these joints, here are the ways it can affect the inner workings of your shoulder.

Inflammation of tissues

You have a protective membrane in your joints called synovium, and osteoarthritis can cause the membrane to become inflamed and thickened. This, in turn, affects the ability of the synovial fluid to lubricate, which can lead to infection and pain.

Cartilage damage

Cartilage is the slippery, protective tissue that connects your bones to one another within your joints. When osteoarthritis damages your cartilage, your bones may rub against one another without that cushion, causing friction, pain, and a change in the mechanics of your shoulder.

Formation of osteophytes

When your bones rub together because of damaged or lost cartilage, they may respond by producing more cells. These extra cells form little spurs on the surface of your bones, creating a bumpy surface where it should be smooth and round. These spurs, also called osteophytes, cause even more friction, more pain, and less mobility.

Secondary pain

When you compensate for shoulder pain by changing the way you move, you put excess stress on surrounding ligaments, tendons, and bursae that results in a secondary level of friction, damage, inflammation, and pain.

Overcoming osteoarthritis pain

Dr. Shah begins with the most conservative treatment first. He may recommend a period of rest to reduce the acute inflammation, which may involve a simple application of ice and a dose of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like aspirin or ibuprofen. 

Physical therapy and regular exercise are also great ways to counter the effects of osteoarthritis. Even if movement seems like exactly the wrong approach, supervised activities can actually do wonders to restore your range of motion and decrease your pain.

Dr. Shah’s patients also find a significant measure of relief from acupuncture, an effective way to address pain and inflammation without drugs or surgery.

When you need more advanced interventions, Dr. Shah offers image-guided injections,  nerve blocks, radiofrequency ablation, and peripheral nerve stimulation that can stop your pain completely, proving long-term pain relief, allowing you to follow a treatment plan that will help rehabilitate your joint. 

Osteoarthritis may not be preventable, but you can prevent it from getting worse by getting treatment and stopping the progression of the disease. If you’re suffering from osteoarthritis in any of your joints or have shoulder pain you can’t explain and can’t control, call us at either of our locations in Colonia or Livingston, New Jersey, or book an appointment using our online scheduling tool.

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