Shoulder Osteoarthritis

Shoulder osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that affects the shoulder joint, which is made up of the humerus (upper arm bone), scapula (shoulder blade), and clavicle (collarbone). This condition occurs when the cartilage in the shoulder joint begins to wear down, causing the bones to rub against each other. As a result, the joint becomes inflamed and painful, and it may be difficult to move the shoulder joint. Shoulder osteoarthritis is a progressive condition that can lead to stiffness, loss of range of motion, and decreased function over time. It is most commonly seen in individuals over the age of 50, but it can occur at any age.

Causes of Shoulder Osteoarthritis

The exact cause of shoulder osteoarthritis is not always known, but there are several factors that can contribute to its development. Some common causes include:

Age: The risk of developing shoulder osteoarthritis increases with age as the cartilage in the joint wears down over time.

Injury: Previous shoulder injuries, such as a fracture or dislocation, can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.

Overuse: Repetitive use of the shoulder joint, such as in athletes or manual laborers, can lead to wear and tear of the joint cartilage and increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.

Genetics: Certain genetic factors may increase an individual’s risk of developing osteoarthritis.

Obesity: Being overweight or obese can put extra stress on the shoulder joint, leading to increased wear and tear over time.

Joint abnormalities: Structural abnormalities of the shoulder joint, such as a deformity or malalignment, can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.

Signs and Symptoms of Shoulder Osteoarthritis

The signs and symptoms of shoulder osteoarthritis can vary depending on the severity of the condition. Some common signs and symptoms include:

  • Pain: Pain in the shoulder joint is a common symptom of osteoarthritis. The pain may be dull or sharp and may increase with movement.
  • Stiffness: The shoulder joint may feel stiff, particularly after periods of inactivity or sleep.
  • Limited range of motion: Shoulder osteoarthritis can limit the range of motion of the joint, making it difficult to perform certain movements.
  • Weakness: Weakness in the shoulder joint may be present due to joint degeneration.
  • Clicking or popping: Clicking or popping sensations may be felt in the shoulder joint during movement.
  • Tenderness: The shoulder joint may feel tender to the touch.
  • Swelling: Swelling and inflammation may be present in the shoulder joint.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention from a healthcare professional. An accurate diagnosis can be made through a combination of a physical exam, medical history, and imaging studies such as X-rays or MRIs.

Treatment for Shoulder Osteoarthritis

Physiotherapy can play a crucial role in the treatment of shoulder osteoarthritis. The primary goal of physiotherapy is to reduce pain and improve the function of the shoulder joint. Some common physiotherapy treatments for shoulder osteoarthritis include:

Exercise therapy: A physiotherapist can develop a specific exercise program to improve the strength, flexibility, and range of motion of the shoulder joint.

Manual therapy: Hands-on techniques such as joint mobilization, soft tissue mobilization, and massage can help improve joint function and reduce pain.

Heat and cold therapy: The application of heat or cold can help reduce pain and inflammation in the shoulder joint.

Ultrasound therapy: This therapy involves the use of sound waves to promote healing and reduce pain in the shoulder joint.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS): This therapy involves the use of electrical stimulation to reduce pain and improve function in the shoulder joint.

Assistive devices: The use of assistive devices such as slings or braces can help support the shoulder joint and reduce pain during activities of daily living.

It is important to note that the specific physiotherapy treatment plan will vary depending on the individual and the severity of the condition. A physiotherapist will develop a customized treatment plan based on the patient’s specific needs and goals.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about shoulder osteoarthritis please call us at 03 9836 1126.



Gupta, A., Kaur, J., & Syal, P. (2021). Comparative study of therapeutic ultrasound versus exercise therapy in the treatment of shoulder osteoarthritis. International Journal of Health Sciences and Research

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