Chronic Shoulder Pain: A Sign of Arthritis?

Shoulder pain is incredibly common, with as many as 70% of adults experiencing a bout of it at some point during their lifetimes. For many people, discomfort can be traced to a specific injury, while for others, it could be the result of arthritis.

At our office in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Dr. Jeremy Woodson and our exceptional staff provide treatments and preventive care that are both innovative and evidence-based for the best possible outcome. From high-level athletes to everyday people, we can help people of all ages with all of their orthopedic concerns including shoulder pain and arthritis.

Shoulder anatomy

It's no wonder the shoulder can cause pain given its complicated anatomy. In fact, it is the body's most mobile joint and can experience plenty of wear-and-tear. Three bones — the humerus or upper arm bone, the scapula or shoulder blade, and clavicle or collarbone — along with two joints join together to create this unique anatomical marvel that can move up, down, front, and back as well as in a 360-degree rotation.

Shoulder pain

There are many reasons why people may experience pain in their shoulder, including everything from a fractured bone, inflamed tendon or rotator cuff tear to an impinged nerve, arthritis, and more.

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joint that can cause stiffness and pain and be classified into five types.


The most common kind of arthritis, osteoarthritis occurs due to aging and the associated wear-and-tear. Symptoms typically include stiffness, tenderness, and joint pain and appear in the shoulder and other joints such as the hips, knees, and hands.

Post-traumatic arthritis

Post-traumatic arthritis can develop after an injury such as a shoulder fracture or dislocation. Swelling and pain can occur due to fluid building up in the joint.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can affect the same joint on both sides of the body at the same time. It can cause the body to attack the joint lining which may result in swelling and eventually cause the erosion of the bones and deformity of the joints. Symptoms may include warmth and tenderness in the joints, stiffness in the morning, fever, fatigue, weight loss, and more.

Avascular necrosis

This type of arthritis can result from the destruction of the shoulder's joint tissues due to blood not reaching the cells in the humerus bone. That can occur for several reasons like a dislocation or bone fracture as well as steroids taken at high doses or excessive consumption of alcohol.

Rotator cuff tear arthropathy

A tear in the rotator cuff tendons and damage to the bones can cause this type of arthritis to develop. Signs include muscle weakness and significant pain, as well as trouble lifting things overhead.

Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosis is typically done through a medical history, thorough physical exam, and X-rays. Treatment begins with nonsurgical recommendations like heat, ice, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). It could also include physical therapy exercises, corticosteroid injections, and other medications. Only if these interventions do not relieve pain are surgical options considered.

If you are experiencing shoulder pain, call our office today at 405-233-3602 for an appointment to determine the proper diagnosis and course of treatment. You can also book your appointment online.

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