COVID-19 update:  Our hospital is still fully open for appointments and admissions, however visitors are not permitted.

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.

A patient speaking to a receptionist

Patient information

Our Hospital is renowned for providing exemplary levels of care across more than 90 services. From orthopaedics, to urology, our private GP practice and Urgent Care Clinic, 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, 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 health insurance (e.g. Bupa, Axa Health, Aviva), you will need to contact your insurer to get authorisation before any treatment, and in most cases you will also require a referral letter from your GP.

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

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

    Make an enquiry

    Latest articles

    The latest news, insights and views from St John and Elizabeth Hospital.

    Find out what we’re doing to keep you safe, read expert articles and interviews with our leading specialist Consultants, learn more about common conditions and get your questions answered.

    medical professional looking into microscope

    12th January 2022

    Under the microscope: The many benefits of private healthcare

    Whatever your situation, there might come a point when you consider going private…

    gallbladder attack

    04th December 2021

    Are you having a gallbladder attack? Find out more about the causes, symptoms and treatment

    A gallbladder attack can happen at a moment’s notice and cause aggressive pain….

    overactive bladder

    02nd December 2021

    Constantly need to pee? How to treat an overactive bladder

    If you regularly get the feeling that you’ve “got to go”, you’re not…

    partial knee replacement

    29th November 2021

    Pros and cons of partial knee replacement: Is it right for you?

    More than 10 million people in the UK have osteoarthritis or a similar…

    hearing loss

    19th November 2021

    Surprising facts about hearing loss you may not know

    Did you know that hearing loss is the second most common disability in the UK? It affects one in six UK adults, but shockingly, people with hearing loss wait an average of 10 years

    private healthcare

    02nd November 2021

    Private healthcare vs the NHS: Which should you choose?

    Whether you’re not feeling well and struggling to get a doctor’s appointment, been…

    nhs waiting list

    29th October 2021

    NHS waiting lists: How long is too long? (and what can you do about it?)

    The NHS is a beacon of hope for millions of people all over…

    spine - back awareness week

    21st October 2021

    Back Care Awareness Week 2021: Improving your back pain when working from home

    Every year, back pain charity BackCare (the National Back Pain Association) shines a light on one of the most prevalent complaints of modern times.

    woman with good skin - private dermatology care

    18th October 2021

    Reasons why you should see a private dermatologist in London

    Here’s a look at some common skin conditions that may require the attention of a private dermatologist in London or elsewhere to clear them up.

    looking after your vision

    14th October 2021

    Looking after your vision with check-ups at a London eye clinic

    It’s easy to overlook eye health until problems occur that may be difficult to treat. Regular check-ups at our London Eye Clinic will put your mind at rest.

    knees and elbows

    11th October 2021

    Elbow treatments: A look at different injuries and how they’re fixed

    Elbow fractures, breaks and other injuries and conditions require specialised elbow treatment plans so that you can get back to normal.

    Doctor with a stethoscope

    07th October 2021

    Benefits of a private health care check-up

    Detecting problems before they have a chance to become serious is one of the main reasons for having a health care check-up — but should you go public or private?