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Shoulder Arthritis

Arthritis is a term describing degenerative change in a joint. The most common type of arthritis is Osteoarthritis, which is often referred to as “wear and tear” changes affecting a major joint. There a many other types of arthritis, such as Rheumatoid arthritis, which are inflammatory conditions.

In the shoulder, arthritis can affect the shoulder joint (glenohumeral joint), or the Acromioclavicular joint between the clavicle (collarbone) and the acromion (shoulder-blade). Both osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis can affect these joints, leading to pain and stiffness. In the shoulder, another type of arthritis can occur, Cuff-tear arthritis, which is due to long-standing tears of the rotator cuff tendons and produces symptoms similar to osteoarthritis.

Who develops arthritis?

Arthritis is most common with advancing age, and symptoms are often mild and intermittent in the early stages, though slow progression is usual. Occasionally people who have had injuries to their shoulder, or have inflammatory arthritis, can develop arthritis at an earlier age.

Shoulder arthritis diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosis is usually straightforward but requires an X-ray. Treatment in the early stages may include the following:

Shoulder arthritis physiotherapy

  • Exercise
  • Analgesia (pain relief)
  • Modifying your activities

Shoulder arthritis surgery

With advanced arthritis usually, the treatment will involve surgery. This may be:

  • Arthroscopy: Debridement and washout of the joint can relieve the symptoms of arthritis, but does not get rid of arthritis.
  • Joint replacement (arthroplasty): This is the most common surgical treatment for arthritis (see surgery section).
  • Excision of an arthritic Acromio-clavicular Joint.

Acromioclavicular joint excision

If the acromioclavicular joint has been injured previously or if there is evidence of arthritis, debridement or excision of the joint may be performed. Often this is performed in conjunction with subacromial decompression.

The operation is again usually performed with regional anaesthesia involving a nerve block to the ar, together with sedation or general anaesthetic depending on the individual. The operation is generally performed as a day case or overnight stay if performed late in the day.

The aim of the operation is to remove the worn surfaces of the joint, together with the damaged intraarticular disc, which lies between them.

3 small (0.5cm) wounds are required in order to introduce the arthroscope (camera) and the instruments. A shaver is utilised to remove the pathological tissue. 0.5 – 1.0 cm of the bone may be excised from the end of the clavicle (collar bone).

Following the surgery, the arm is placed in a sling for 2 – 3 days. By 2 weeks post-surgery, the patient should be able to raise the arm above shoulder height, achieving full range shortly afterwards, as the bruising from the operation resolves. Patients resume driving 1 – 2 weeks after the intervention.

By 8 weeks postoperative, a full range of movement and reasonable strength should have been regained (80% normal). Further progress can then be achieved over a 6 month period. Physiotherapy is required to retain muscles and restore normal posture and movement patterns.

Private Orthopaedic Clinic

The Orthopaedic Unit at St John & St Elizabeth Hospital is one of the country’s leading private orthopaedic centres. We provide a complete service for the assessment, treatment and management of orthopaedic and musculoskeletal problems.

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Patient information

Our Hospital is renowned for providing exemplary levels of care across more than 90 services. From orthopaedics, to urology, ENT, as well as a private GP practice and our urgent care centre, Casualty First, our services are led by some of London’s leading Consultants. For more information, and to find a service suitable for your care, find out more about the services that we offer.

Make an enquiry

If you have any questions relating to treatment options or pricing information then get in touch with us by filling out one of our contact boxes or giving us a call on 0207 078 3891.

Our Appointments Team have a dedicated and caring approach to finding you the earliest appointment possible with the best specialist.

 If you are self-paying you don’t need a referral from your GP for a consultation. You can simply refer yourself* and book an appointment.

If you have medical insurance (e.g. Bupa, Axa PPP, Aviva), you will need to contact your insurer to get authorisation for any treatment and, in most cases, you will require a referral letter from your GP.

If you do not have a GP, then we have an in-house private GP practice that you can use. Alternatively we can suggest the most appropriate course of action for you to take, given your location and individual circumstance.

*Please note – for investigations such as X-rays and MRI’s a referral will be required. However, we may be able to arrange this for you through our on-site private GP.

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