Inflammatory Arthritis

What is Inflammatory Arthritis of the Shoulder?

Inflammation of the joints is referred to as arthritis. The inflammation arises when the smooth covering (cartilage) at the end surfaces of the bones wears away. In some cases, the inflammation is caused when the lining of the joint becomes inflamed as part of an underlying systemic disease. These conditions are referred to as inflammatory arthritis.

Symptoms of Inflammatory Arthritis of the Shoulder

Inflammatory arthritis of the shoulder causes pain and decreased mobility of the shoulder joint. In the arthritic shoulder, there is an absent joint space that shows on X-ray. In the normal shoulder, there is a normal joint space.

The cartilage lining is thinner than normal or completely absent. The degree of cartilage damage and inflammation varies with the type and stage of arthritis. The capsule of the arthritic shoulder is swollen. The joint space is narrowed and irregular in outline; this can be seen in an X-ray image. Bone spurs or excessive bone can also build up around the edges of the joint. The combinations of these factors make the arthritic shoulder stiff and limit activities due to pain or fatigue.

Diagnosis of Inflammatory Arthritis of the Shoulder

Inflammatory shoulder arthritis can be diagnosed by a physical examination. Your doctor will ask you to move your shoulder in different directions to find out which motions are restricted or painful. X-rays and laboratory tests may be ordered to diagnose or rule out other conditions. X-rays may show thinning or erosion in the bones or loss in joint space. Laboratory studies will show the presence of a rheumatoid factor or other antibodies.

Treatments for Inflammatory Arthritis of the Shoulder

The treatment options vary depending on the diagnosis.

Non-surgical treatment : Any infection in the shoulder joint is treated by non-surgical treatments which may provide relief with relatively few side effects.

  • Anti-inflammatory medications or corticosteroids may help reduce the inflammation.
  • Physical therapy may be recommended to help you increase the range of motion and strengthening exercises to maintain muscle tone.
  • Assistive devices such as canes or walkers can make your daily living activities easier.

Surgical treatment : Surgery is considered the last treatment resort when the above non-surgical treatment options fail to reduce the symptoms. The type of surgery to be performed depends on your age, condition of the shoulder joint, and the type and progression of the inflammatory disease. The goal of the surgery is to relieve pain and improve the joint motion. The most common surgical procedures include:

  • Shoulder Joint Replacement
  • Shoulder Reconstruction
  • Shoulder Arthroscopy