For proper movement, the joints of the shoulder need lubrication, which comes from the cartilage. Arthritis (inflammation of the joint) affects this carefully maintained system, causing discomfort, pain and, in some cases, the need for surgery. Arthritis is further divided into two categories: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis, the more common of the two, is due to ‘wear and tear’ of the joint cartilage. It is more likely in older patients, although can develop after fracture. Sufferers have pain and ache in the shoulder joint, often at the top and front. The pain is typically worse in the morning and at night. Reduced range of motion and flexibility makes sleep or daily activities difficult.
Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an over-active immune response. In other words, the body’s natural defences attack the joint lining. Pain, swelling/inflammation, reduced range of motion, and lumps or tender spots are all symptoms. Over long term, rheumatoid arthritis can cause distortion of the bones.
Although neither type of arthritis is curable, the symptoms can be managed and treated in a number of ways, including physical therapy to improve joint lubrication, medication to combat pain and inflammation, and lifestyle changes such as rest and weight loss. In more extreme cases, other techniques or surgery may be necessary. For osteoarthritis in particular, cartilage restoration is a possibility.