Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) of the Shoulder
Rheumatoid Arthritis of the Shoulder
Rheumatoid arthritis of the shoulder is a painful condition that can severely affect your quality of life. This article will explore how the condition develops and how it is commonly treated.
Overview of rheumatoid arthritis of the shoulder
The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint, meaning the head of the upper arm bone (humerus) fits into the socket of the shoulder blade (glenoid). There is another joint at the top of the shoulder called the acromioclavicular joint where the collarbone meets the top of the shoulder blade. A protective layer of articular cartilage lines the space between the two bone surfaces in the joints to allow smooth, gliding movement in the joint.
Rheumatoid arthritis of the shoulder is an autoimmune condition where the body begins attacking the healthy cartilage in the shoulder joint. Unlike osteoarthritis, the wearing away of the cartilage is not related to wear-and-tear over time but occurs as a result of the immune system attacking the otherwise healthy cartilage cells.
Without cartilage to protect and cushion the joint, the bone surfaces are left to rub against each other, which can lead to pain, inflammation in the joint, and difficulty moving the shoulder normally.
Causes of rheumatoid arthritis of the shoulder
While rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition, it is still unknown exactly why some people develop it and others do not. A family history of autoimmune conditions can play a role in the development of rheumatoid arthritis, but it is unclear if there are other environmental factors that contribute to the risk of developing this form of arthritis.
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis of the shoulder
Rheumatoid arthritis shares many of the same symptoms of osteoarthritis. Common symptoms include
- Pain in the shoulder (that gets worse over time and during activity involving the shoulder)
- Difficulty moving the shoulder
- Grinding or popping sounds when moving the shoulder
- Limited range of motion
It’s important to seek medical attention to determine which type of arthritis may be causing your symptoms as recommended treatments differ based on the individual case.
Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis of the shoulder
There is currently no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but many different treatment options are available to minimize pain and other symptoms. Nonsurgical treatments for rheumatoid arthritis of the shoulder include
- Rest (avoiding activity that further strains the shoulder joint)
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers
- Icing the shoulder to relieve inflammation
- Physical therapy exercises that stretch and strengthen the affected shoulder
- Corticosteroid injections
- Antirheumatic prescription drugs
In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to relieve pain and inflammation in the shoulder joint from rheumatoid arthritis. An orthopaedic surgeon may recommend
- Shoulder arthroplasty (replacement): In this procedure, the damaged bone surfaces are replaced with artificial components that help restore the joint’s normal functioning.
- Joint fusion: In this procedure, the damaged bone surfaces in the shoulder joint are removed and the joint is fused together to relieve pain and inflammation and to provide additional stability in the joint.
An orthopaedic specialist will walk you through the best treatment options for your individual case.
Treating rheumatoid arthritis of the shoulder at OAR
Rheumatoid arthritis of the shoulder can interfere with your quality of life. Our team of experienced orthopaedic specialists and surgeons at OAR are prepared to work with you to find a treatment solution that will help you find relief from persistent shoulder pain.
Only a doctor can tell you if you have this ailment. This is for informational purposes and should not be used in lieu of a doctor’s opinion.