Overcoming Shoulder Arthritis

Shoulder arthritis is a condition that occurs when the cartilage that lines the "ball and socket" of the shoulder joint becomes worn down.  With overuse and poor movement mechanics, the likelihood of developing shoulder arthritis increases with age. However, young people may develop shoulder arthritis after a traumatic event (e.g. fall or athletic injury) or shoulder surgery.

Common symptoms of shoulder arthritis include pain with activity, decreased shoulder mobility (e.g. difficulty when reaching back as if grabbing a seat belt), weakness, stiffness, and difficulty using the affected arm, pain at rest, and difficulty sleeping.

Shoulder arthritis is usually diagnosed with an x-ray.  As the cartilage wears down, the joint space between the humerus and the scapula bones decreases.  The good news is that you can overcome shoulder pain even if you've been diagnosed with shoulder arthritis.

In order to overcome shoulder arthritis pain, the first common-sense recommendation is to take a short break from any activity that aggravates your shoulder.  This allows for pain and irritation to subside.  If pain persists, receiving hands-on therapy like soft tissue and joint mobilization of the shoulder can alleviate pain more quickly.  Once your pain is under control, the next step is to address the root and contributing causes of excessive wear and tear of the shoulder girdle.

If you have shoulder arthritis, you may have poor mobility in your shoulders, upper back, and neck.  You may also have weakness in your rotator cuff and lat muscles.  You could be using poor shoulder mechanics with you're lifting, reaching, pushing, and pulling.  Any of these problems could contribute to excessive wear and tear and worsening of shoulder arthritis.  The best way to know what is contributing to your shoulder pain is to have an assessment performed.

If you have weakness, learning how to activate muscles that are not firing well is key.  Some exercises that we like include during this stage include the side-lying shoulder rotation for rotator cuff activation and prone I's for lat activation.

Once your muscles engage better, the next step is restoring movement.  The shoulder is a ball and socket joint and should move in 3-planes of movement.  Some exercises that we like during this stage are the supine pullover and reach, roll, and lift to improve shoulder mobility.

Once you have learned how to activate your muscles and have restored movement, developing strength is necessary.  This will give you the best shot at achieving lasting results.  Strength building movements are exercises that use several muscle groups simultaneously.  They include pushing and pulling variations like pull-ups (or pull-downs), rows,  military presses, push-ups.  To ensure the smaller stabilizing muscles engaging, exercises like the kettlebell armbar and Turkish Get-up may be appropriate.  If you can generate tension and maintain solid technique, all these movements can be performed safely and will enable you to have a healthy and functional shoulder.

When addressed with a specialized physical therapy program, overcoming shoulder arthritis is possible.  However, ignoring pain and engaging in repetitive activity can result in a further decline of your shoulder health.  If you're worried about shoulder arthritis, the physical therapists at Movement Solutions would be glad to help you.

We invite you to request a shoulder consultation with one of our specialists.  This is an opportunity to ask questions, obtain clarity about your shoulder pain, and foster confidence that we can help you.  If you’re certain that we’re a good fit to work together, you can decide on the next step.

If you’re in pain but unsure about what you should do, call us at (864) 558-7346 and ask how we can help.

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