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Shoulder Arthritis

The shoulder is made of three bones that create two joints. The acromioclavicular or AC joint is where the collarbone meets the tip of the shoulder blade. The glenohumeral or GH joint is comprised of the head of the upper arm bone that fits into the shoulder blade. Arthritis of the shoulder is more common in the AC joint, but also affects the glenohumeral joint, the shoulder’s ball and socket joint.

Shoulder arthritis is a progressive degenerative joint disease caused by deterioration and loss of the cartilage at the ends of the bones that creates friction in the joint which causes pain and leads to a loss of function. It has no specific cause but is related to age, genetics, and sex. Women are more often affected than men. Also a history of rotator cuff tears, shoulder dislocations, and certain occupations and sports that require repetitive movements can contribute to development of osteoarthritis.

The main symptoms are pain and reduced range of motion, and a grinding sensation with shoulder movement. If the AC joint is affected, the pain will be felt at the top of the shoulder. If the glenohumeral joint is affected the pain will be felt at the back of the shoulder. Shoulder arthritis can make it challenging to brush your hair, retrieve an object from a shelf or play golf or tennis.

Dr. Patel will review your medical history and symptoms and ask about your work, lifestyle, activities, and previous shoulder injuries. He will perform a physical exam testing range of motion, tenderness, pain, and muscle strength. He will order x-ray to evaluate the bones and visualize bone spurs, and an MRI to evaluate the soft tissues.

Pain from osteoarthritis of the AC joint is less common than pain from arthritis of weight bearing joints like the knee. In fact, many people with AC joint arthritis may have no symptoms. Symptoms include pain and tenderness at the top of the shoulder joint. Sleeping on your side can aggravate the pain. Other symptoms are shoulder weakness and reduced range of motion.

Studies report that people with AC joint arthritis usually also have other shoulder problems like rotator cuff tears or labrum tears that can cause symptoms. Additionally, bone spurs can develop and pinch and irritate the shoulder tendons and rotator cuff muscles causing impingement and pain. Most people with AC joint arthritis will not need surgery.

Arthritis of the glenohumeral joint affects about one in three people over the age of 60. It causes irreversible damage to the head of the upper arm bone and the socket. Patients often present with a long history of shoulder pain and stiffness, and loss of function.  Symptoms include pain deep inside the shoulder joint with movement, pain at night, reduced range of motion, and crepitus, a crunching sound with movement.

When your shoulder hurts, contact Dr. Patel to schedule a consultation to receive the correct diagnosis and all your treatment options.

Dr. Ronak M. Patel is a double board-certified orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine physician. He completed his bachelor’s degree, medical degree, and residency training at Northwestern University. He, then completed his fellowship training at the Cleveland Clinic. He specializes in the treatment of complex knee, shoulder and elbow injuries and degenerative conditions. Contact him to schedule a consultation to learn more about how he can help you return to the life you love and the activities that make life worth living. He serves teens and adults in Chicagoland and NW Indiana.

At a Glance

Ronak M. Patel M.D.

  • Double Board-Certified, Fellowship-Trained Orthopaedic Surgeon
  • Past Team Physician to the Cavaliers (NBA), Browns (NFL) and Guardians (MLB)
  • Published over 49 publications and 10 book chapters
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