Treatments available for dealing with shoulder arthritis

In an arthritic shoulder, the articular cartilage deteriorates and the underlying bone becomes exposed, leading to significant pain during normal shoulder motion. Over time, individuals with arthritis experience progressive pain, stiffness and loss of shoulder function.

The initial treatment for arthritis is typically non-operative. Anti-inflammatory medications often are prescribed to decrease inflammation within the joint, thus providing some pain relief. Physical therapy and a low-impact exercise program serve to increase range of motion and strength of the shoulder, and may also be of benefit in some patients with arthritis.

Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory agents that may be injected directly into the shoulder joint. They provide symptomatic relief in some patients, and the risk of complications is low. While one or two cortisone injections are generally considered to be safe, repeated injections are not recommended as they may cause deterioration of the tendons in the shoulder.

Visco supplementation, another option for patients with symptomatic arthritis, involves a series of three injections. This has been found to decrease inflammation and relieve pain in some individuals. These injections are FDA approved for use in the knee and also have been shown to be effective in patients with shoulder arthritis. However, these injections are not yet FDA approved for use in the shoulder, so some insurance carriers may not cover this treatment option.

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