Shoulder Arthritis

Shoulder arthritis is a painful condition that causes swelling in your shoulder joint. Read on to learn the common types of arthritis that can affect the shoulder, how the condition is diagnosed, and how it can be treated.

If you are experiencing shoulder pain and inflammation, contact Dr. Benjamin W. Szerlip, DO, in Austin, Texas. He is a fellowship-trained shoulder and sports medicine surgeon offering expert orthopedic diagnoses and treatment for several shoulder conditions.

Related Services

What Patients Are Saying

“I was very pleased with my experience of my shoulder surgery. My pain was easily managed and I’m looking forward to getting back on the golf course. Dr. Szerlip was easy going and you can tell he loves his job and cares about you!” — Melody G. 

What is Shoulder Arthritis?

Shoulder arthritis is defined by inflammation in one or more of your joints. The inflammation in your shoulder causes shoulder pain and stiffness that can make lifting your arm difficult.

Types of Shoulder Arthritis

We will now explore 5 different types of shoulder arthritis that could be causing you pain and discomfort.


Osteoarthritis is also called degenerative joint disease. Over time, the smooth joint surfaces (called articular cartilage) wear away, exposing the bone of the joint. As the bone surfaces come in contact with each other, it can cause pain during shoulder movement.

Osteoarthritis of the shoulder occurs more often in the acromioclavicular joint than in the glenohumeral shoulder joint.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the body’s cells. This type of arthritis affects the lubricating lining of the joint called the synovium. It causes the lining to swell, which causes pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint.

Rheumatoid arthritis will usually affect both sides of your body at the same time.

Post-Traumatic Arthritis

Post-traumatic arthritis develops after an injury, such as a shoulder dislocation or fracture of the shoulder. It is similar to osteoarthritis.

Rotator Cuff Tear Arthropathy

This type of arthritis can develop if you have a long-standing rotator cuff tendon tear. The rotator cuff tendons hold the upper arm bone in the shoulder socket on the shoulder blade. If the rotator cuff tendons tear, the upper arm bone can move upward during shoulder movement and rub against the acromion. The friction can cause painful arthritis to develop along with weakness.

Avascular Necrosis

This condition occurs when the blood supply to the head of the upper arm is disrupted. The bone cells can eventually die, leading to a damaged shoulder joint and arthritis.

Shoulder Arthritis Symptoms

The symptoms of shoulder arthritis are as follows:

Shoulder Pain

This is the most common symptom of shoulder arthritis. The pain usually gets worse with movement. The location of arthritis will depend on which shoulder joint is being affected.

  • Glenohumeral shoulder joint: Pain is felt in the front, side, or back of the shoulder.
  • Acromioclavicular (AC) joint: The pain is felt on the top of the shoulder. The pain can travel towards the side of the neck.

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may experience pain in both of these joints.

Limited Range of Motion

A decrease in your range of motion is another common symptom of shoulder arthritis. As the disease progresses, you may find it difficult to perform tasks that involve lifting your arm.


Crepitus is a grinding, clicking, or snapping sound within your shoulder joint during movement.

Shoulder Arthritis Diagnosis

Your orthopedic surgeon may use several diagnostic methods to determine the type of arthritis you have.

Your doctor will first consider your medical history and the symptoms of your shoulder pain. Then he will perform a physical examination. During the physical exam, he will look to determine things like where the pain is felt, your range of motion, and any signs of injury.

Your doctor may also request an X-ray. A narrow joint space and bone spurs may show in an arthritic shoulder.

How is Arthritis of the Shoulder Treated?

There are both non-surgical and surgical treatments for shoulder arthritis.

Non-Surgical Treatments

Initial treatment for shoulder arthritis will include non-surgical treatments. These may include the following:

  • Rest and activity modification
  • Physical therapy
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Corticosteroids
  • Heat pads
  • Ice packs

Surgical Treatments

Surgical treatment may be recommended if the arthritis is non-surgical treatments do not relieve pain. Surgery may include the following:

  • Arthroscopy: Using a small camera and tiny instruments, the surgeon may use shoulder arthroscopy to debride or clean out the shoulder joint. This procedure can provide some pain relief but will not remove the arthritis.
  • Shoulder replacement surgery (Arthroplasty): This procedure is considered when advanced arthritis affects the glenohumeral joint. Shoulder replacement surgery options include hemiarthroplasty (replacing just the humeral head), total shoulder arthroplasty (replacement of the humerus and glenoid), and reverse total shoulder replacement (works well for those with rotator cuff tear arthropathy).
  • Resection arthroplasty: This surgery treats arthritis of the acromioclavicular joint. A small amount of bone is removed to restore mobility and decrease pain.

Book Your Appointment

If you are living with pain due to arthritis of the shoulder, seek expert orthopedic treatment today. Dr. Benjamin Szerlip, in Austin, Texas, provides various treatment options to relieve pain and inflammation. Book your appointment today to see how he can help you.


Medically reviewed by Benjamin W. Szerlip DO