IMPORTANT COVID-19 UPDATE : We’re here to support accident victims and to continue to provide superior care for those in need during this ongoing crisis Learn More

What Does Arthritis in the Shoulder Feel Like?

Jun 11, 2022

What Does Arthritis in the Shoulder Feel LikeYour shoulder joints are two of the most mobile areas in your whole body. Think of all the things you use your shoulders for lifting, rotating, twisting, and throwing are just a few movements that depend on your shoulders. However, this also means your shoulders take on a lot of wear and tear over the years. As you age, the supportive tissues in your shoulder joints can start to break down, leading to a painful condition like shoulder arthritis. The term arthritis refers to joint pain and inflammation, and when it affects your shoulders, it can cause pain with certain movements and reduce your range of motion. Visit the best orthopedic doctors in Atlanta if you start to recognize these signs of arthritis in your shoulders and get started on effective treatment options for you.

Arthritis Shoulder Pain

The first sign of arthritis in your shoulders is pain that gradually gets worse. Pain with shoulder arthritis typically develops as the cartilage in your shoulder joints starts to wear down. The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint that connects the upper arm bone, shoulder blade, and collarbone. Cartilage covers these areas to help the joint move smoothly and prevent the bones from rubbing against one another. As this cartilage starts to break down, it can start to soften, develop cracks, and start to flake away. Once the cartilage no longer covers part of the bone, the bone surface is exposed and negatively impacts smooth, pain-free movements. Stress on the cartilage of your shoulder joints can eventually lead to different types of shoulder arthritis.

Types of Shoulder Arthritis

The three most common types of shoulder arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and post-traumatic arthritis. Here are examples of each type, including their different origins and symptoms.


Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and can develop with general wear and tear on the body as you age. This type of arthritis can occur in any joint in the body, not just the shoulders. Shoulder osteoarthritis is also known as a degenerative joint disease because the joints are slowly wearing down or degenerating with aging. Osteoarthritis primarily impacts the cartilage that supports your shoulder joints. As your shoulder arthritis progresses and cartilage wears down, bones in your shoulder joint can rub together, causing pain, stiffness, and even reduced mobility in your shoulder. Certain activities can aggravate your shoulder osteoarthritis and make symptoms worse. If left untreated, shoulder osteoarthritis can get worse over time and have a lasting impact on your mobility.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is actually an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system attacks its own cells. This can cause your body to attack healthy tissues like the cartilage in your joints. If you develop rheumatoid arthritis in your shoulders, it is more likely to occur on both sides of the body at once. Rheumatoid arthritis causes swelling in your joints, which can increase your pain and stiffness. Shoulder rheumatoid arthritis can cause your shoulder joints to become tender and feel warm to the touch. You may notice an increase in rheumatoid arthritis symptoms in the morning, causing stiffness and pain when you stretch or move your shoulders for the first time.

Post-Traumatic Arthritis

An injury to your shoulder can lead to post-traumatic arthritis. A shoulder fracture or dislocation can lead to chronic pain and other symptoms, especially if the injury or post-traumatic arthritis goes untreated. When you injure your shoulder, inflammation and swelling can aggravate the healthy functioning of your shoulder joint. Car accident injuries and sports injuries can damage the shoulder joint, affecting typical movements and destabilizing the joint. Post-traumatic arthritis can occur in one shoulder but not the other, depending on where the injury occurred and what joints were affected.

Shoulder Arthritis Symptoms

Talk to your Atlanta orthopedic doctor if you start to notice these shoulder arthritis symptoms. While you may not be able to tell what type of arthritis you are dealing with, a doctor can determine the most appropriate diagnosis based on your symptoms and other factors.

Shoulder joint pain

Shoulder pain in the joint is the most common sign that something is going on with your shoulder. With shoulder osteoarthritis, you may notice pain occurs gradually over time, while rheumatoid arthritis pain may cause pain along with swelling in the area. This pain may occur in the general area of your shoulder and can be sharp and stabbing or dull and throbbing. Pain from shoulder arthritis may also radiate into your arms, and you may also experience tingling or numbness in your extremities.

Shoulder joint stiffness

Stiffness in your shoulder joints can also signal that you have shoulder arthritis. If you develop stiffness in your shoulders, it can make movements that were once easy become uncomfortable or unbearable. While some stiffness can be a sign of general aging, joint stiffness accompanied by other symptoms like pain can signal that something more serious like arthritis is going on. Stiffness in your shoulders can start to limit your typical range of motion, making it more difficult or uncomfortable to stretch, twist, throw, or rotate your shoulders and arms.

Clicking, grinding sounds

Shoulder arthritis can also lead to clicking or grinding should in your joints, known as crepitus. When the cartilage on your joints starts to break down, instead of a smooth surface, it can become irregular. As the bones in your shoulder joint move, they can make these popping or clicking sounds as they move along irregular surfaces. Sometimes a sharp pain or warm sensation will occur alongside these cracking or grinding sounds. Joints can make popping sounds even when they are functioning normally, but if you notice these sounds along with pain and stiffness, then this can be a sign of shoulder arthritis.

Shoulder Arthritis Treatment

Talk to your Atlanta orthopedist about your options for shoulder arthritis treatment. Once your doctor has determined what type of shoulder arthritis you are experiencing, they can develop a personalized plan of treatment to address your specific symptoms and provide you with long-term solutions.

Pain Management

Learn how to manage the pain of shoulder arthritis through a combination of home remedies and treatments with your doctor. In mild cases of shoulder arthritis, you may be able to effectively manage your pain at home for a while. Applying cold or warm compresses to the area can help with reducing pain, inflammation, and stiffness in your shoulders. Over-the-counter medications can also provide temporary relief from pain and inflammation. A chiropractor can also provide you with natural and noninvasive options for pain management with shoulder arthritis.

Injury Treatment

If your shoulder arthritis is caused by a recent injury, then you will want to see a doctor who can treat the source of your post-traumatic arthritis. Car accident doctors can help you recover from an injury to your shoulder after a crash. Sports injury doctors can provide you with treatment for a shoulder injury and work with you to regain movement and improve your performance.

Stretches & Exercises

Your doctor may also walk you through stretches and exercises to help ease your discomfort with shoulder arthritis. Physical therapy can help you improve or maintain a healthy range of motion in your shoulder. As your shoulder joints wear down due to arthritis, a physical therapist can provide you with exercise techniques to increase your strength and flexibility in the area. This will provide your shoulder joint with better support and stability while you deal with shoulder arthritis. These techniques can also help slow the progression of shoulder arthritis and reduce your pain and other symptoms.

Lifestyle Modifications

Consider certain lifestyle modifications to help slow the progression of shoulder arthritis and ease your pain and discomfort. One example would be to maintain a nutrient-dense diet that is low in sugars and processed foods, which are known to make inflammation and pain symptoms worse. You can also work with your Atlanta chiropractor to improve your posture, which has numerous health benefits. Learn techniques for reducing pressure and stress on your shoulder joints so you can preserve healthy functioning and minimize your pain.

Other Options

In some cases, your doctor may recommend more invasive procedures to manage your shoulder arthritis. Your doctor may recommend corticosteroid injections in the affected shoulder joint to help reduce pain and inflammation. There are a few different surgical options for managing advanced shoulder arthritis, including arthroscopy, joint replacement surgery, and restriction arthroplasty.

Visit AICA Orthopedics for the best orthopedic doctors in Atlanta. Our team of doctors includes orthopedists, physical therapists, chiropractors, neurologists, and surgeons who work together to provide you with comprehensive treatment and care. Chiropractic care can help relieve arthritic pain. We offer in-house diagnostic imaging tools, so you can see your doctor and get the necessary tests you need all in one convenient location. You don’t have to live with shoulder arthritis pain. Get started with our doctors at AICA Orthopedics in Atlanta and learn about your range of treatment options, including natural approaches and medical interventions. Don’t let shoulder arthritis keep you from enjoying your regular activities and affect your quality of life. Schedule an appointment with one of our doctors at AICA Orthopedics to get started today!


Contact Us

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.