Doc w hand on patient's shoulder

At the University of Maryland Orthopaedics, our shoulder surgeons are experts in treating shoulder arthritis, a condition that involves the breakdown of cartilage.

Arthritis Causes

Normal cartilage protects a joint and allows it to move smoothly. Cartilage also absorbs shock when pressure is placed across the joint.

Without the normal amount of cartilage, the bones rub together. This causes swelling (inflammation) and stiffness.

Causes of joint arthritis can include:

  • An autoimmune disease (the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue)
  • Broken bone
  • General "wear and tear" on joints
  • Infection (usually by bacteria or virus)

In most cases, joint inflammation goes away after the cause goes away or is treated. Sometimes, however, it does not go away. When this happens, you have chronic arthritis. Arthritis may occur in men or women. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis.

Shoulder Arthritis Symptoms

  • Joint pain
  • Joint swelling
  • Reduced ability to move the joint
  • Redness and warmth of the skin around a joint
  • Joint stiffness (especially in the morning)


The goal of treatment is to reduce pain, improve function and prevent further joint damage. The underlying cause often cannot be cured.

Non-Surgical Treatment for Shoulder Arthritis

One of our health care providers may suggest physical therapy, which might include:

  • Heat or ice
  • Water therapy
  • Massage

Medicine may also be prescribed, along with lifestyle changes. All medicines have some risks. You should be closely followed by a doctor when taking a medicine prescribed for arthritis. Cortisone injections into the shoulder joint may help alleviate pain.

Your doctor might also recommend that you:

  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Avoid staying in one position for too long.
  • Avoid positions or movements that place extra stress on your sore joints.
  • Make certain changes at your home to make certain activities easier (for example, installing grab bars in the shower/tub and near the toilet).
  • Try stress-reducing activities.
  • Eat a healthy diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables and contains important vitamins and minerals (especially vitamin E).
  • Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption and smoking.
  • Apply capsaicin cream over your painful joints. (You may feel improvement after applying the cream for 3 to 7 days.)

If there is still significant pain and limitation of function despite all conservative treatment measures, surgery may be recommended.

Surgical Treatment for Shoulder Arthritis

  • Arthroscopic surgery to release tight tissue and remove bone spurs may be effective if the arthritis is still relatively mild to moderate.
  • Shoulder joint replacement (arthroplasty) is a treatment option for advanced arthritis. It can be very effective in alleviating pain and restoring a functional range of motion.

Make an Appointment

To make an appointment with one of our shoulder specialists or to learn more about our services, locations and treatment options, please call 410-448-6400 or request an appointment online.

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