Surgical and Non-Operative Shoulder Arthritis Treatment Options

Joseph A. Abboud, MD May 8th, 2019

The Right Shoulder Arthritis Treatment Could Change Your Life

Living with the persistent pain and stiffness of shoulder arthritis can be frustrating. The soreness and limited range of motion can prevent you from being able to do many of the activities that are important to you. Fortunately for you and millions of other patients, clinical research has sparked advancements and innovation in the discipline of shoulder arthritis treatment.

A greatly expanded number of effective shoulder arthritis treatment options are now available to modern patients. At Rothman Orthopaedic Institute, we understand the pivotal role that your shoulders play in supporting your routine activities and your lifestyle. That’s why we’re proud to offer the widest spectrum of targeted treatment options for arthritis and other degenerative joint diseases that affect the shoulder, ranging from non-surgical therapies to the most cutting-edge surgical operations.

Non-Surgical Shoulder Arthritis Treatment Options

Whenever possible, the Shoulder specialists at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute will prescribe non-operative treatments for arthritis and similar degenerative conditions, maintaining that surgery should be reserved as a last resort. For thousands of patients, non-operative care will effectively eliminate shoulder pain and associated symptoms while avoiding invasive surgery.

Are you a viable candidate for nonsurgical treatment? A physical examination performed by a qualified specialist will be needed to answer this question. However, patients with early-onset arthritis whose joint and cartilage damage is isolated to a small anatomical area are most likely to be prescribed non-surgical treatments. Listed below are some of the non-operative treatment options that may be recommended for shoulder patients.

  • Activity Modification and Physical Therapy
    Overhead or heavy labor can aggravate arthritis of the shoulder. Modifying these activities to reduce high-impact stress may be helpful for managing shoulder symptoms. Heavy weightlifting can also aggravate arthritic shoulders, especially bench pressing or overhead pressing; these activities should be avoided as well.

    It is still important to maintain a good range of motion and muscle strength in an arthritic joint. For some patients, an increase in low or non-impact activities (such as swimming) can be especially beneficial. Your doctor can help you to compose a regimen of physical therapy activities that can improve your orthopaedic shoulder health.

  • Medications
    Medications can help patients manage their shoulder arthritis symptoms. The most commonly prescribed medications for shoulder arthritis are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These medications decrease pain and inflammation in an arthritic joint and are usually sold over the counter. Regular use of these medications should be monitored by your primary care doctor.

    If you have gastrointestinal side-effects associated with these medications, drugs known as COX-2 inhibitors may be recommended as an alternative option for treating shoulder arthritis without irritating your digestive tract. These medications are only available by prescription. Medication should only be taken according to the instructions of your physician.

  • Joint Supplements Glucosamine and Chondroitin
    Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate are compounds found naturally in the human body which contribute to the framework of cartilage. The use of oral glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate has been shown in  shown in studies to cause mild to moderate improvement in patients’ osteoarthritis symptoms by possibly decreasing inflammation. Use of these supplements should be avoided in diabetic patients.

  • Intra-articular Injections
    Intra-articular steroid injections into the affected shoulder joint can provide significant pain relief in patients with shoulder arthritis. These injections can help to reverse inflammation and associated symptoms. Steroid treatments are generally limited and your physician will help you decide what is appropriate for you.

At Rothman Orthopaedic Institute, all of our treatment plans are personalized. That means that your own goals, preferences, patient background, and overall health will be taken into account when determining your candidacy for any non-surgical shoulder arthritis treatment.

Surgical Shoulder Arthritis Treatment Options

If the joint damage caused by your shoulder arthritis is severe, surgical treatment may be advised following your diagnostic examination. For other patients, surgery may be recommended if non-operative treatment options have proven insufficient or if symptoms have persisted in spite of prescribed therapies.

Each shoulder surgeon at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute is a board-certified and fellowship-trained specialist. Based upon your particular needs, you will be paired with an appropriate physician with sub-specialized expertise in performing the specific operation you need. We feature a full range of advanced surgical treatments, ranging from minimally-invasive procedures to shoulder joint replacement operations.

Listed below are two of the most effective and commonly prescribed shoulder treatment options.

  • Arthroscopy
    Shoulder arthroscopies involve the surgical treatment of damaged, arthritic joint tissue through a small incision in the shoulder. Tiny instruments and a camera to guide the surgeon’s work are inserted into this incision. Damaged tissue will be cut away and the interior of the joint will be cleaned and repaired. The smaller incisions involved in arthroscopies mean that these operations are minimally invasive and involve less tissue trauma and shorter recoveries relative to open surgery.

  • Shoulder Replacement
    In cases of severe symptoms and extensive degeneration, shoulder replacement (also known as shoulder arthroplasty) can be a highly effective method of shoulder arthritis treatment. This surgery is performed to artificially replace the arthritic surface of the shoulder joint with prosthetic components.

    In most operations, the humeral head (“ball”) will be replaced with a metal ball attached to a stem. This stem is placed in the humerus (arm bone) to hold the ball in place. Sometimes only the “ball” component of the joint is replaced; this is known as a hemiarthroplasty. A total shoulder replacement includes replacement of both the “ball” (humeral head) and the “socket” (glenoid) and is a more common treatment for shoulder arthritis. This operation is capable of producing dramatic results in terms of restoring function and eliminating symptoms.

Further Information For Shoulder Arthritis Patients

If you’ve been living with shoulder arthritis, there’s no need to resign yourself to the chronic pain and inhibited function associated with this condition. Targeted treatment options are available that can comprehensively restore your shoulder and your quality of life.

Rothman Orthopaedic Institute’s board-certified physicians can help you to decide on the best options for your shoulder arthritis treatment. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please visit us here or contact us at 1-800-321-9999.

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