shoulder degenerative diseaseWhen people speak of degenerative joint disease, what they are really talking about is mainly the breakdown of cartilage within joints. Normally, cartilage is a smooth, protective tissue that stabilizes joints, including the shoulder joints, and prevents painful bone-on-bone interaction. Cartilage is typically located where one bone meets another, and provides a cushioning surface between the bones. Shoulder degenerative joint disease, or shoulder osteoarthritis, is a condition in which the cartilage in the joints of the shoulder becomes worn down. The extent of the degeneration of the cartilage within the shoulder joint typically increases with age.

The team of shoulder specialists at the Shoulder Surgery Center of Excellence in Los Angeles is committed to providing comprehensive care for chronic shoulder conditions. Our orthopedic surgeons offer the most effective conservative management and surgical techniques for the treatment of degenerative joint disease. To schedule an appointment with our experienced surgeons, please contact us at (888) 847-0357.

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Causes of Shoulder Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, primarily seen in patients 50 years of age or older, is the most common cause of shoulder joint degeneration. Gradual wear and tear on the joints of the shoulder can cause thinning of cartilage and lead to chronic inflammatory damage. Repetitive movements of the shoulder during certain sports such as baseball and tennis, can also increase a person’s susceptibility to developing shoulder osteoarthritis. Overuse is a common cause of inflammation.

Degeneration of the joints of the shoulder may also be caused by the following conditions:

  • Post-traumatic arthritis
  • Rheumatoid (inflammatory) arthritis
  • Previous shoulder surgery
  • Previous injury, such as a fracture or dislocation
  • Genetic predisposition (sometimes arthritis or joint disease can run in families)

Symptoms of Shoulder Osteoarthritis

Degeneration, or the breakdown of cartilage, causes movements that had previously been painless to perform to become painful. Over time, degenerative joint disease can progress, and lead to a variety of painful or debilitating symptoms. Degenerative shoulder joint disease is often characterized by:

  • Pain, often constant in severe cases
  • Stiffness in the shoulder
  • Tenderness and swelling around the joint
  • Limited range of motion in the arms
  • A catching or grinding sensation in the joint
  • A creaking or groaning sound from the joint

In cases of more severe cartilage breakdown, bone-on-bone movement can lead to bone spur formation within the shoulder joint. Osteophytes (bone spurs) are painful new areas of bone growth that can irritate or impinge upon other tissue within the shoulder. Treatment is often needed to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

How Is Shoulder Degenerative Joint Disease Treated?

At the Shoulder Surgery Center of Excellence, our shoulder specialists typically recommend conservative management as the first step in treating degenerative joint disease. Non-surgical treatment of osteoarthritis is focused on pain relief and a reduction of stress on the shoulder joint. Depending on the extent of cartilage damage and severity of symptoms, methods may include:

  • Modification of daily activities, and rest
  • Physical therapy to improve mobility and strengthen muscles of the shoulder
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication to relieve pain and inflammation
  • Cortisone (steroid) injections into the shoulder joint to relieve pain and inflammation

Over time, cartilage damage may worsen despite conservative therapy, causing increasing pain during normal activities. Shoulder surgery can significantly reduce this pain and can improve the overall quality of life for individuals with degenerative joint disease. Shoulder arthroscopy, a minimally invasive surgical technique, is often used to smooth away or remove the damaged cartilage and abnormal bone to relieve pain and irritation within the shoulder joint. Since our surgeons are experts in arthroscopic surgery, our patients often experience less pain and quicker recovery after surgery.

In younger patients who have degeneration of the shoulder joints due to factors such as injury or trauma, arthroscopic surgery of the shoulder can offer relief of pain and restoration of function as a more conservative treatment option than proceeding directly to joint replacement. Arthroscopic resurfacing is a less invasive surgical procedure which can often help some active, younger patients, for whom shoulder replacement may not yet be a viable option, but who have lost much of the articulating cartilage of the glenohumeral joint and are experiencing considerable pain.

A shoulder replacement, or arthroplasty, is considered the definitive treatment for the relief of pain resulting from advanced degenerative joint disease. This procedure involves replacing the damaged cartilage and bone in the shoulder with specially made prosthetic joint implants. After recovery and physical therapy rehabilitation, the prosthetic joint can provide patients with many years of pain-free shoulder function.

At the Shoulder Surgery Center of Excellence, our top priority is to provide exceptional results for our patients within a comfortable environment. Our orthopedic surgeons are trained in both the conservative management and surgical correction of shoulder degenerative joint disease. Our team of shoulder specialists will develop an individualized treatment plan to achieve the most effective, long-term relief for degenerative joint disease of the shoulder.

Contact a Los Angeles Orthopedic Surgeon

The Shoulder Surgery Center of Excellence offers renowned orthopedic surgeons specializing in the comprehensive treatment of shoulder injury and chronic shoulder joint conditions. If you have specific questions about arthritis or treatment for joint degeneration, please contact us by filling out our online contact form or calling (888) 847-0357.

Please read this article on shoulder arthritis by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

Next, read about rotator cuff tears.