Fast track your treatment
To book an appointment or speak with one of our friendly team, please get in touch using the options below
Osteoarthritis is a common cause of shoulder pain. We examine the symptoms and causes of shoulder osteoarthritis
Surprisingly, the shoulder does not contain one joint only but actually comprises four separate joints in or around it. These are the:
The structure of your shoulder gives it exceptional mobility, but it also makes it an extremely complex joint. This can become an issue should something go wrong with it. All four of these joints can be affected by arthritis and a problem in any of them can cause pain and loss of mobility in your arm and shoulder.
There is currently no cure for arthritis, but your doctor will be able to give you expert advice on the best treatments currently available to help reduce your symptoms and manage any pain.
The bones in your joints all have a lining of cartilage at their ends, known as ‘articular cartilage’. In a healthy joint the articular cartilage is smooth, and this helps the bones in the joint to move against one another freely. Osteoarthritis causes parts of this cartilage to thin and to change from being glassy smooth to rough and fragmented, leading to uneven surfaces and rough movement. This means that the bones may start to rub when they move over one another. Over time, this additional rubbing of uneven surfaces can cause damage to the joint, leading to pain and stiffness.
The body is usually very good at trying to repair damage, but osteoarthritis often means the damage occurs at a faster rate than the body is able to repair itself. Sometimes the healing process itself can cause changes in the joint which then lead to additional symptoms in the joint. One of these changes is the formation of new bony growths in the joint. Called ‘osteophytes’, these are hard lumps of bone in a joint.
It is important to note that these symptoms are not exclusively caused by arthritis and other illnesses, injuries and diseases can cause similar problems. However, these symptoms can often be a good indicator that something is not quite right with your shoulder, and it would be sensible to have your shoulder checked by a doctor for your peace of mind.
Ongoing national and international research into arthritis continues to improve our understanding of the disease. The specific causes of osteoarthritis remain unclear, although there are a number of factors known to increase the risk of developing it in the shoulder joint. These include:
In the early stages of arthritis, you may not feel the need to see a doctor. Some people say that they’re worried they will be “wasting a doctors time” when they don’t have any significant symptoms. However, it is always sensible to seek expert medical advice when you start to lose the ability to carry out certain tasks, or when the pain reaches a certain level.
If your shoulder pain is persistent, present even when you are resting, or it is waking you up at night, a consultation with a specialist shoulder doctor is recommended.