Osteoarthritis of the shoulder joint: causes, signs and methods of treatment

Shoulder arthrosis is a widespread chronic disease associated with damage to articular structures. The pathological process is accompanied by degenerative deformation of the articulating surfaces. In this case, not only cartilage tissue is damaged, but also bone tissue. Symptoms of pathology and methods of treatment depend on the degree of damage to the joints.

The disease can develop over several years without showing itself. At some point, under the influence of adverse factors (hypothermia, trauma, severe concomitant disease), the first signs of the disease appear. It is at this time that it is necessary to consult a doctor, since the fight against dystrophic changes in cartilage is especially effective at the onset of the disease.

shoulder arthrosis

Causes of shoulder arthrosis

The causes of degenerative-dystrophic damage to the tissues of the joint are numerous and varied. Among them, injuries play the main role, so post-traumatic arthrosis of the shoulder joint is considered the most common form of pathology. It can be provoked even by a slight, but repeatedly repeated damage to the cartilaginous tissues.

In addition, the disease can occur under the influence of the following pathological factors:

  1. Severe joint damage: synovitis, gout, acute or chronic arthritis, aseptic necrosis of the humerus.
  2. Regular overexertion of the joints. Most often observed in athletes involved in volleyball, tennis, basketball.
  3. Congenital pathology of the shoulder joint.
  4. Endocrine diseases.
  5. Elderly and senile age.
  6. Overweight (obesity).
  7. Avitaminosis.
  8. Autoimmune lesions and weakening of the immune system.
  9. genetic predisposition.

Among the sick, the majority are people engaged in monotonous physical labor. Therefore, arthrosis of the right shoulder joint is diagnosed much more often than the left.

shoulder pain due to osteoarthritis

The disease usually develops under the influence of not one, but several adverse factors at once. Based on this, treatment should be comprehensive and aimed not only at fighting the disease, but also at eliminating all the causes that caused it.

Characteristic signs of the disease

Shoulder arthrosis, imperceptibly beginning and gradually developing, can suddenly manifest itself after an injury, hypothermia or serious physical exertion. In this case, there are symptoms characteristic of damage to the shoulder joints and nearby tissues:

  • pain;
  • crunching and clicking during hand movement;
  • stiffness and decreased range of motion in the shoulder.

The disease most often occurs in a chronic form. An exacerbation of the disease can be triggered by excessive stress on the joint or injury.

The intensity of the manifestation of symptoms largely depends on the severity of damage to the cartilage and bone tissue, so it is customary to distinguish between several degrees of the disease. Such a systematization significantly facilitates the diagnosis and allows you to accurately predict the outcome of the disease.

Shoulder arthrosis I degree

During this period, the tissues of the joint are affected slightly. Pain is observed extremely rarely and only after excessive physical exertion or prolonged monotonous work. The patient most often does not pay attention to these symptoms, attributing them to overwork or muscle strain. Defeat of 1 degree is treated only by conservative methods.

At the beginning of the disease, there are no obvious changes in the cartilage tissues on x-rays, only an oval ring is noted around the articular cavity.

Shoulder arthrosis II degree

At this stage, the symptoms of the disease become more pronounced. Cartilage tissues become thinner and deformed, intra-articular ligaments are damaged. During the movement of the hand, a crunch is heard, the inner layer of the articular bag becomes inflamed. Over time, the pain becomes constant. Morning stiffness and limited movement appear, which can lead to muscle atrophy.

shoulder arthrosis x-ray

Shoulder arthrosis III degree

During this period, the joint is already significantly deformed, there are practically no movements in it. The patient suffers from acute pain that can radiate to the arm and shoulder blade. If you do not stop the further destruction of tissues, the pathological process can lead to disability.

The disease of the third degree is not amenable to conservative treatment and requires surgical intervention.

Shoulder-shoulder arthrosis rarely reaches the third phase. Most often, the second stage is diagnosed with the transition to a chronic form.

Which doctor to contact

Often, people who are faced with joint pain do not know who to turn to. At the first symptoms of the disease, you should visit a rheumatologist. The specialist will not only conduct a complete physical examination and make a diagnosis, but also, if necessary, relieve severe pain with the help of an intra-articular injection of an anesthetic.

With the advanced form of the disease, the rheumatologist is likely to be powerless. In this case, you will need a surgeon or orthopedist. In large cities, you can make an appointment with an arthrologist who deals only with joint diseases.

How to deal with shoulder arthritis

After a medical examination and diagnosis, the doctor prescribes a specific therapy that allows you to achieve a long and stable remission of the disease. It is impossible to cure degenerative changes in the joints, but slowing down the course of the destructive process and alleviating the patient's condition is a completely feasible task.

The main goal of antiarthrosis therapy is to relieve pain and restore joint mobility.

Modern drug therapy

In some patients, it is difficult to make an accurate diagnosis in the early stages of the disease. At this stage, the pain is not pronounced and does not force patients to seek help from specialists. Most often they are treated independently with folk remedies. Some patients engage in therapeutic exercises to reduce pain and stiffness in the joints. For the treatment of arthrosis, drugs prescribed by a doctor are used, in compliance with the recommended dosage and duration of administration. The most effective are the following groups of drugs:

  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs;
  • chondroprotectors;
  • corticosteroid drugs;
  • non-narcotic analgesics;
  • vasodilators;
  • muscle relaxants.

Many drugs for this pathology are sometimes prescribed for a long time. Depending on the severity of the disease, medications are taken orally, used externally, injected intramuscularly or into the cavity of the shoulder joint.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are contraindicated to use for a long time due to the presence of side effects from the digestive tract.

It is possible to treat the disease with drugs already at an early stage of the development of the pathological process. The course is determined based on the patient's condition and the severity of symptoms. As an independent treatment, ointments included in this group are not prescribed. They are used in combination with similar groups of drugs used intramuscularly or orally. Their task is to reduce inflammation and alleviate the patient's condition.


Almost all patients include in the treatment regimen drugs aimed at improving the metabolic processes in the cartilage tissue. In addition, they increase the elasticity of the cartilage. Chondroprotectors have such properties. These medicinal substances differ depending on the main active ingredient on the basis of which they are made:

  • hyaluronic acid;
  • chondroitin sulfate;
  • glucosamine;
  • combined funds.

Glucosamine is a substance that plays an important role in the formation of healthy cartilage tissue. The task of chondroitin sulfate is to nourish and provide cushioning to the shoulder.

Preparations for monotherapy have more proven themselves in the market compared to a combination of substances.

The polysaccharide contained in the intercellular space is hyaluronic acid. It is additionally able to reduce the sensitivity of receptors that respond to pain. Combined chondroprotectors, which contain several active ingredients, have the greatest advantage.

The most effective use of chondroprotectors in the initial stages of the disease. The task of the drugs is the synthesis of new cells of healthy cartilage tissue, which replace the damaged tissue. In the presence of pain and swelling, drugs from this group will be less effective. Therefore, it will first be necessary to use anti-inflammatory drugs to alleviate the patient's condition.

To obtain the maximum effect, injectable preparations are used for intra-articular or intramuscular administration. The course of treatment with chondroprotectors takes up to six months, some patients notice the first results after 3 months of therapy. It is important to follow some rules in the treatment of such medicines.

With the beginning of the course of therapy, physical overload, stressful situations should be excluded. The patient will receive the greatest effect if he starts taking chondroprotectors, improves nutrition, and engages in physiotherapy exercises. Many patients with arthrosis of the shoulder joint are engaged in the method of Dr. Bubnovsky, they perform a specially designed set of exercises to achieve gradual restoration of the joints or stop the progression of the disease.

Corticosteroid agents

When severe pain appears, if anti-inflammatory drugs do not bring a positive effect, corticosteroids are prescribed. To alleviate the patient's condition, ointments or injections are prescribed.


At the initial stages of the disease, analgesics are prescribed to reduce pain.

Compared with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, drugs from this group have a less negative effect on the mucosa of the digestive tract.

Having an unexpressed anti-inflammatory effect, they effectively fight pain.


Mandatory means in the treatment of arthrosis are vasodilators. They eliminate vascular spasms, normalize blood flow in the affected area. Many patients complain of the appearance of night pains, which are effectively dealt with by drugs from this group.

Muscle relaxants

When osteoarthritis of the shoulder joint is affected, muscle spasms are considered a common occurrence, which are relieved by muscle relaxants. When prescribing them, the principle of complexity is observed, they are used together with painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs. If necessary, the minimum dosage is initially prescribed with a gradual increase.

Surgical treatment

The main objective of the operation is to restore the working capacity of the joint and improve the quality of life of the patient. If conservative therapy is ineffective, a persistent pain syndrome persists, the joint gradually deforms, and the range of motion in it is sharply limited, the patient is indicated for surgical intervention.

The decision on the need for surgery is made by the orthopedist or traumatologist together with the patient. Then the dimensions of the endoprosthesis and the material from which it will be made are determined. Today, implants are made of titanium and high-strength polymers, close in weight to a natural joint. The durability and reliability of endoprostheses is beyond doubt.

Recovery period

The operation to replace the affected joint most often goes without complications. Fixation with a support bandage is required for the first 14 days. Early passive performance of a complex of physical exercises on special devices and devices is allowed. Power loads are allowed after 45-60 days.


Any complex of anti-arthritis exercises is useful only during remission. If there is an increase in temperature, soreness and other symptoms of an exacerbation of the disease, charging is contraindicated.

Exercise therapy should not cause pain or discomfort. At the slightest feeling of inconvenience, exercise should be abandoned.

exercises for osteoarthritis of the shoulder joint

Charging should be done daily. After the load, it is useful to do self-massage in the area of the affected joint and nearby muscles, using a healing cream, which the attending physician will help you choose.


Physiotherapy allows you to enhance the effect of medications, reduce their dosage and minimize the risk of complications. The type of physiotherapy is determined by the doctor, guided by the patient's condition, the neglect of the process and possible contraindications due to concomitant diseases.

Most often, the following physiotherapy procedures are used in the treatment:

  • magnetotherapy;
  • ultrasound with hydrocortisone;
  • electrophoresis with anti-inflammatory and analgesic substances;
  • ultraviolet irradiation
  • treatment with laser and infrared rays.

Physiotherapy is carried out in courses of 10-15 sessions several times a year.

Treatment with folk methods

Combining folk remedies with drug therapy, exercise therapy, proper nutrition and physiotherapy, you can achieve a long and stable remission.

One of the best recipes is a compress using birch leaves, which have anti-inflammatory and warming effects. Young leaves are best suited, because closer to autumn their beneficial properties decrease. Before making a compress, a small massage of the affected limb is necessary. Then the leaves are applied to the skin, strengthened with cling film and a bandage. The compress is left overnight. The duration of treatment is 10 days.

Salt baths have a healing effect. Before the procedure, the crystals are pre-dissolved in hot water. Then the resulting solution is poured into the bath. The procedure will require approximately 3 kg of salt. Additionally, you can add a few drops of any essential oil. It is best to take a bath before going to bed, the duration of the bath should not exceed 30 minutes.

Hot oatmeal compress helps a lot. They should be poured with boiling water, insisted and used for their intended purpose. Such procedures are recommended to be done at night.

No less useful herbal poultices. Crushed plants with anti-inflammatory action (yarrow, ginger, turmeric, cinquefoil, calamus) are brewed with boiling water, kept for 10 minutes under a lid and applied to a sore spot. After the procedure, the affected shoulder should be lubricated with a healing cream and go to bed.

Inside it is recommended to take an infusion of corn stigmas. One teaspoon of raw materials or 1 filter bag is brewed with 200 ml of boiling water, insisted under the lid for 30 minutes and consumed 1 tbsp. spoon half an hour before meals.

Prevention of osteoarthritis of the shoulder joint

Disease prevention can be primary and secondary. Primary prevention includes the following activities:

  • regular exercise - jogging or brisk walking, exercises for the muscles of the shoulder girdle;
  • cold and hot shower;
  • elimination of excessive loads and avoidance of traumatic situations.
  • timely treatment of diseases that can provoke shoulder arthrosis;

Secondary prevention is aimed at early diagnosis and treatment of arthritis.


Recovery of joint functions is a long and difficult process. Treatment of shoulder arthrosis should be aimed primarily at eliminating the symptoms of the disease. Only complex therapy, combining medical and folk methods, will bring relief and restore working capacity.