Osteoarthritis of the Shoulder

Osteoarthritis (OA) of the shoulder encompasses both primary OA and secondary to other conditions, such as rheumatoid, post trauma or chronic rotator cuff tear.

Patients usually experience a slow decline in function, with some initially barely noticeable stiffness and aching. As the joint degeneration gets worse, the pain increases, with night pain, difficulty with sleeping on the afflicted shoulder and catching or clicking becoming more frequent and disabling.

The diagnosis is usually made on clinical exam and Xray that shows the joint degeneration. Usually this is all that is needed if non-surgical management is being undertaken. If the symptoms are very disabling and the joint degeneration advanced, the surgeon may request a CT scan to get a good 3D appreciation of the bone stock and geometry in planning a replacement.

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  • Management


Non-operative management is the mainstay of management while the symptoms are not causing undue daily trouble or resulting in constant reliance on pain medication. Physiotherapy is good to maintain or improve the strength around the shoulder, but patients report a variable response to this. A local anaesthetic and steroid injection into the joint often alleviates the pain and aching considerably and may last for weeks to months.


Ultimately alleviating the pain from the degenerate joint involves a shoulder arthroplasty. The type of shoulder arthroplasty that is best will vary from patient to patient, and this will be discussed at consultation.

Conditions Managed

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