Your shoulders are body’s most mobile joints and therefore, experience a lot of wear and tear. As a result of this wear and tear, your shoulders have the potential to become unstable. Shoulder arthritis, or inflammation of one or more of your joints, is one particularly painful condition that can affect the shoulder joints. 

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) has identified five distinct forms of shoulder arthritis.


The classic form of arthritis associated with wear and tear is osteoarthritis. This can affect shoulders, as well as other joints like your knees, hands, and hips. Osteoarthritis is a condition that destroys the smooth outer covering of the bone. As the cartilage wears away, it becomes rough, and the protective area between the bones decreases. During movement, the bones of the joint rub against each other, causing pain. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition where the lubricated lining on joints swell, causing pain and stiffness in the joint. This is a symmetrical disease, meaning that it usually affects the same joint on both sides of the body. 

Post-Traumatic Arthritis

Post-traumatic arthritis is usually a result of an injury. Because shoulder injuries are commonly due to the shoulder joint’s instability, injuries such as shoulder fractures and shoulder dislocations may eventually lead to post-traumatic arthritis. This condition can also be a result of sporting injuries and other accidents. Post-traumatic arthritis of the shoulders can cause fluid to build up in your shoulder joint, pain, and swelling. 

Rotator Cuff Tear Arthropathy 

The shoulder blade is connected with the top of your arm through a collection of tendons and muscles known as a rotator cuff. Injuries to the rotator cuff are common and can lead to a form of shoulder arthritis called rotator cuff arthropathy. 

A rip in the tendons of the rotator cuff is generally what causes this condition. The rotator cuff can no longer hold the head of the humerus in the glenoid socket, and the humerus can move upward and rub against the acromion. This can damage the surfaces of the bones, causing arthritis to develop. 

Avascular Necrosis

Avascular necrosis is a condition that destroys the joint tissues in a shoulder, resulting in arthritis. The condition is caused when blood cannot reach the humerus bone (the long bone of the upper arm), causing cells in the shoulder bone to die. This is often a result of joint dislocations and/or bone fractures. Avascular necrosis can also be a result of taking steroids at high doses and drinking too much alcohol. 


Shoulder arthritis is treatable. Depending on your diagnosis, symptoms, and disease progression, your doctor may recommend:

  • Lifestyle changes, such as range-of-motion exercises, physical therapy, or rest
  • Medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin to calm inflammation and reduce pain
  • Shoulder injections with corticosteroids (like cortisone)
  • Surgery, if nonsurgical treatments fail to relieve symptoms

Because pain and stiffness associated with shoulder arthritis can worsen over time, it’s important that you don’t ignore the symptoms. If you or your loved one is experiencing shoulder pain or symptoms that may be related to arthritis, give Dr. Hicken a call at 435-787-2000.