Shoulder and Elbow Arthritis

Arthritis affecting the shoulder and elbow joints can significantly impact daily activities, causing pain, stiffness, and limited mobility. This condition arises when the protective cartilage in the joints wears down over time, leading to discomfort and reduced function. Shoulder and elbow arthritis can result from aging, previous injuries, or joint instability. Common symptoms include pain, swelling, and difficulty performing overhead movements. If left untreated, it may lead to chronic pain, muscle weakness, and impaired range of motion.

Treatments for Shoulder and Elbow Arthritis

While both shoulder and elbow arthritis share common principles in their medical management, the distinct characteristics of each joint necessitate a personalized approach to treatment. 

Treating Arthritis in the Shoulder

The shoulder is a highly mobile ball-and-socket joint, allowing a wide range of motion but also making it prone to instability. Treatment for shoulder arthritis may involve a focus on maintaining range of motion and stability. 

Treating Arthritis in the Elbow

The elbow, being a hinge joint, primarily allows flexion and extension with limited rotational movement. Elbow arthritis treatment may prioritize preserving the joint's stability during flexion and extension movements. 

Non-Surgical Treatments


Physical Therapy

Physical therapy exercises focus on improving strength and flexibility in the shoulder and elbow, promoting better joint movement and reducing pain. These exercises are customized to each patient's needs, aiming to enhance overall joint function and alleviate discomfort associated with arthritis.


Anti-inflammatory medications and pain relievers help manage discomfort associated with arthritis. These medications can effectively control inflammation, allowing patients to maintain an active lifestyle with reduced pain.

Corticosteroid Injections

Injecting corticosteroids into the affected joints provides targeted relief by reducing inflammation and alleviating pain in the shoulder and elbow. This minimally invasive procedure offers a direct approach to managing symptoms, providing patients with temporary relief and facilitating other non-surgical interventions.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy offers strategies and tools to make daily activities more manageable for individuals with arthritis in the shoulder and elbow, enhancing independence and function. 



Surgical Treatments


Joint Denervation Surgery

Joint denervation disrupts pain signals from affected joints, providing long-term relief from chronic pain in the shoulder and elbow. This surgical procedure selectively interrupts nerves responsible for transmitting pain signals, offering patients a lasting solution to persistent discomfort and enhancing their overall quality of life.


Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that allows visualization and treatment of joint issues in the shoulder and elbow, minimizing tissue damage and promoting quicker recovery. Surgeons use a small camera to examine and address joint problems, reducing the recovery time compared to traditional open surgery and facilitating a faster return to normal activities.

Joint Fusion

Joint fusion stabilizes the shoulder or elbow joint by permanently joining bones, reducing pain and improving function. This surgical procedure creates a stable and immobile joint, providing relief for patients experiencing severe arthritis symptoms and allowing them to regain a better range of motion in their shoulder and elbow.

Joint Replacement

In severe cases, joint replacement surgery may be considered, replacing the damaged joint with an artificial implant to restore mobility and alleviate pain in the shoulder and elbow. This procedure aims to improve joint function and enhance overall quality of life by replacing the worn-out joint surfaces with a prosthetic device.

Soft Tissue Repair

Soft tissue repair addresses damaged ligaments or tendons, restoring stability and function to the shoulder and elbow joints. This surgical intervention targets specific structures within the joint, addressing issues contributing to pain and dysfunction in individuals with arthritis in the shoulder and elbow.


Synovectomy involves removing the inflamed synovial lining of the joint, reducing pain and swelling in the shoulder and elbow. This surgical procedure aims to improve joint function and alleviate symptoms associated with inflammation in the shoulder and elbow, enhancing the overall quality of life for individuals with arthritis in these joints.


Why Patients Trust the Center for Hand & Upper Extremity

Our state-of-the-art care centers, paired with our team of fellowship-trained, board-certified doctors, deliver comprehensive care for the treatment of arthritis in the shoulders, arms, wrists, hands, and fingers. We offer the most advanced procedures, addressing arthritis at the source to alleviate chronic pain, improve mobility, and enhance your quality of life. 

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When to Seek Medical Attention

Recognizing the signs of arthritis in the shoulder or elbow is crucial for timely intervention. Mild arthritis symptoms may include occasional discomfort or stiffness, often manageable with self-care measures such as rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain relievers. However, if pain is persistent and you experience a noticeable decrease in range of motion, it’s time to see a specialist.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can specific exercises worsen my shoulder or elbow arthritis?

While certain high-impact or repetitive exercises may exacerbate symptoms, a tailored exercise program guided by a healthcare professional can help improve joint function and alleviate pain.

How does weather impact shoulder and elbow arthritis symptoms?

Weather changes, especially cold and damp conditions, may affect arthritis symptoms. Staying warm and maintaining joint flexibility through exercises can help manage discomfort.

Is there a difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis in the shoulder and elbow?

Yes, osteoarthritis is generally wear-and-tear on the joints, while rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition. Both can affect the shoulder and elbow, but treatment approaches may differ.

Can I still participate in sports or physical activities with shoulder or elbow arthritis?

Staying active is encouraged, but choosing joint-friendly activities and modifying movements can help prevent further stress on the affected joints. Consult with a healthcare professional for personalized recommendations.

Can shoulder or elbow arthritis be prevented?

While arthritis prevention may not be entirely possible, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and joint-friendly activities, can help reduce the risk and severity of symptoms.

Are there dietary changes that can alleviate shoulder or elbow arthritis symptoms?

Some individuals find relief with an anti-inflammatory diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. However, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional before making significant dietary changes.

How long is the recovery period after shoulder or elbow joint replacement surgery?

Recovery periods can vary, but many patients experience significant improvement within weeks. Full recovery may take several months, and adherence to postoperative care and rehabilitation is crucial.

Can I continue working with shoulder or elbow arthritis, or should I consider modifications?

Many individuals with arthritis can continue working with appropriate modifications. Occupational therapy can help adapt work tasks, ensuring optimal function and minimizing joint strain.

HUES Surgeons

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