Shoulder Arthritis

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a degenerative disease which gradually destroys the cartilage in your joints, leading to the bony surfaces of your joints rubbing against each other painfully. It is especially common with age, and the shoulder is a commonly affected joint.


The shoulder actually contains two joints – the glenohumeral joint, which is the ball-and-socket joint that makes up most of your shoulder, and the acromioclavicular joint, which connects your collarbone (clavicle) to your shoulder blade (scapula) at the top of your shoulder. Both of these joints can be affected by arthritis.

Shoulder Surgery - Dr Jason Ward - Adelaide Shoulder Surgeon

Signs and symptoms of shoulder arthritis

Common signs that you may have shoulder arthritis include:


Swelling and redness

This may be particularly apparent in advanced stages or after exercise.

Reduced movement

Pain may prevent you from moving your shoulder properly, or your shoulder might feel ‘locked’ in place.

Tenderness and warmth
Your shoulder may feel warm to the touch, and you may feel pain if you press on it.

Popping or grinding sounds
Arthritis degrades your shoulder’s cartilage and prevents the bony surfaces from sliding across each other smoothly, which may create sounds as you move.

Pain and stiffness

Usually felt at the front of the shoulder, this pain may feel worse when moving your arm or when you first wake up in the morning. It will often feel like a deep ache.

Shoulder Surgery - Dr Jason Ward - Adelaide Shoulder Surgeon

Diagnosing shoulder arthritis

Your GP can generally diagnose shoulder arthritis through a physical examination. After asking you questions about your medical history, they may ask you to move your shoulder in different ways to determine how your condition is impacting your life.

 If they suspect shoulder arthritis, your doctor will request an x-ray or CT scan of your shoulder to confirm your condition and assess its extent. Your GP, and Dr Jason Ward can use this information to help them determine an effective course of treatment.

Treatments for shoulder arthritis

Dr Jason Ward is an orthopaedic surgeon with extensive experience in treating shoulder arthritis and a special interest in minimally invasive approaches.

Surgical treatment options

Arthroscopic debridement

In this procedure, Dr Jason Ward makes several small incisions in your shoulder and passes small instruments through them. Alongside a miniature camera, these tools can be used to remove damaged tissue from your shoulder and may allow movement with reduced pain.



If your arthritis is localised to only the top part of your arm bone (humerus), Dr Ward may be able to perform a hemiarthroplasty to treat it. This is a type of partial shoulder replacement which involves replacing only the head of the humerus (the ball), leaving your shoulder’s natural socket in place.


Total shoulder replacement

This involves replacing both the top part of the humerus (the ball) and the shoulder’s socket with synthetic components. Replacing the diseased portions of bone with metal and plastic components removes the diseased surfaces, allowing them to move smoothly again.


Reverse total shoulder replacement

This unique type of shoulder replacement can benefit people who have suffered damage to their rotator cuff. The specialised prosthetic reverses the natural shape of your shoulder: a socket attachment is affixed to the top of your arm bone, and a metal ball is attached to your shoulder socket. After this procedure, your shoulder will move using different muscles.


For more information on shoulder replacement and reverse shoulder replacement, click here.


Resection arthroplasty

If shoulder arthritis is localised to your acromioclavicular (AC) joint, it may be treated with this procedure. Dr Jason Ward will remove a small section from the end of your collarbone, leaving a space which gradually fills with scar tissue.

Non-surgical treatment options

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)

Dr Jason Ward may prescribe over the counter medications such as Panadol or Nurofen to manage pain. These are often recommended in conjunction with other therapies.



This can help you strengthen your shoulder and modify your daily activities to avoid aggravating your shoulder. Dr Jason Ward can recommend specific exercises, or may refer you to a Physiotherapist for ongoing support


Corticosteroid injections

These can dramatically reduce inflammation and pain, allowing you to better engage with Physiotherapy. However, the results are often temporary.

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