Is Shoulder Osteoarthritis Irreversible?
Chronic shoulder pain. Constant achiness. Discomfort with any overhead movements. Do any of these symptoms have you soberly nodding your head in agreement? We may have some less-than-awesome news for you: if you’re experiencing chronic shoulder pain that doesn’t seem to quit, you could have osteoarthritis in your shoulders.
Before you panic about the “arthritis” word, rest assured that there are many extremely effective, non-invasive treatment options to help with the discomfort you’re experiencing. In fact, many people are able to live very comfortably and even actively with osteoarthritis.
Care to know the key to getting osteoarthritis in your shoulder under control? It’s pretty simple, actually: stay on top of your symptoms, watch for early signs of this disease, and seek treatment early.
What Is Osteoarthritis In The Shoulder?
Osteoarthritis is found in your joints and is actually the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide. Osteoarthritis that affects the shoulder means that the disease has set up shop in the shoulder joint specifically.
This disease is essentially the degeneration of cartilage within joints and usually has a slow progression of symptoms, with signs building over time.
Our cartilage is made up of firm-yet-slippery tissue that acts as a cushion around the ends of our bones. When fully functioning and healthy, it helps our joints glide easily and without pain. However, as cartilage begins to wear down, our bones come closer to rubbing against each other – bone-on-bone, instead of bone-on-cushioned-cartilage.
If you hadn’t already guessed, the bone-on-bone sensation is not pleasant. This breakdown of cartilage can also cause a change in the health of the bones and inflame the joint lining, causing swelling on top of the discomfort.
Is Shoulder Osteoarthritis Irreversible?
We know that anything that has the word “arthritis” doesn’t exactly sound great. Arthritis generally isn’t associated with pain-free living and function either, and, oftentimes has a connotation with advanced aging. But can the disease be reversed? Unfortunately, no. Osteoarthritis in the shoulder can’t be totally reversed or stopped completely. Once the damage is present within the joint, your body can’t regenerate the cartilage to reverse this injury.
But be encouraged! If you’re experiencing osteoarthritis in your shoulder, there are non-invasive treatment options to significantly slow the progression of this disease. This is especially true if you’re able to spot it early— an added incentive to see a medical professional as soon as symptoms appear. What should you watch for?
The most common symptoms with those who experience osteoarthritis in their shoulders are:
- Pain during movement
- Stiffness (especially in the morning or after long inactive periods)
- Tenderness around the joint
- Loss of flexibility or range of motion within the joint
Keep in mind, that as we age our risk for osteoarthritis in general increases. This is because it is considered a “wear and tear” arthritis. Similar to a car engine, the more miles (or, in our case, years) we put on it, the more it wears down! Those who also struggle with excessive body weight, or who put repeated stress on the joints from work or sports, are also at a higher risk for this disease.
We’ll say it again: if you start feeling any of the symptoms mentioned, especially in a chronic fashion, it’s best to seek a medical evaluation early. From there, your doctor can help you construct a plan for the best treatment to tackle your specific situation.
Lifestyle Choices For Better Shoulder Health
If you have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis in your shoulder, an evaluation of your current lifestyle choices and how they relate to this disease can be very beneficial.
For instance, many people who have osteoarthritis experience relief from low impact exercise. The right exercises can help you strengthen the muscles that surround your joint to give it extra support. This is where working with a medical professional definitely helps, as a medical professional will be able to assess your current progression of the disease and advise on the most appropriate exercises for your situation. Keep in mind, if you have pain that comes up and sticks around following these new exercises, it means you likely went a little too far. Try taking a couple days off and throttle back when you resume your exercise regime.
For those who prefer guided exercises, yoga and tai chi have both been linked with a reduction in osteoarthritis symptoms. Find a class, and go for it! However, before totally jumping in the deep end with your new activity, make sure your instructor understands your diagnosis and the limitations that may come with it. Also, it should go without saying that pain is not a good thing— use pain as a guide and avoid any moves that seem to aggravate your shoulder.
On top of specific exercises for targeted strength training, if you’re carrying some extra weight, shedding a few pounds has also been shown to decrease symptoms of osteoarthritis. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge weight loss regimen; minor weight loss has been known to relieve some of the pressure within affected joints. To go about gentle weight loss in a healthy way, it’s often best to work with a professional.
Professional Treatment for Shoulder Osteoarthritis
Staying on top of your shoulder health is essential and receiving consistent therapy, including a combination of physical therapy, chiropractic care, and therapeutic massage, can relieve your pain and improve your shoulder function. Through adjustments of the spine, neck, and extremities, plus gentle shoulder stretches and massage, a professional treatment program helps to realign the body and provide real relief. How so?
By gently working on and around your shoulder joint, it helps to decrease inflammation, relieves pressure, reduces nerve irritability, and ultimately allow your entire body to relax and healing to take place. The mobility that also comes from physical therapy, chiropractic, and massage treatment is a huge benefit to working through osteoarthritis in the shoulder as well.
With consistent, therapeutic care, you enable more healing and increase your overall quality of life. That’s a huge win-win. Your practitioner can also help you work in appropriate at-home exercises to accelerate your progress outside of office hours.
Whether you’re working through chronic shoulder pain currently, just started experiencing osteoarthritis symptoms, or looking to get help proactively, professional care can help with overall shoulder health. Schedule your appointment online or call (480) 787-0469.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.