How is shoulder arthritis treated?
Dr. Nwachukwu’s first goal in treating shoulder arthritis is to eliminate pain, swelling and stiffness by treating the underlying symptoms. Depending on the severity of the arthritis, this can be done surgically and non-surgically. Patients in Manhattan, New York City and the surrounding New York boroughs have many different treatment options available.
Dr. Nwachukwu prefers to take a conservative approach to many orthopedic shoulder problems and may suggest careful watching while applying treatments that lessen the severity of shoulder pain. Non-surgical shoulder arthritis treatment may include rest, applying ice or moist heat to the shoulder and taking NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). For some patients, a corticosteroid injection into the shoulder can alleviate a large proportion of symptoms. Dr. Nwachukwu may also prescribe physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder joint and to restore proper mechanics.
If non-surgical treatment has failed to alleviate the painful symptoms of shoulder arthritis, surgical treatment may become necessary. Treatment varies depending on the advancement of the arthritis, the amount of damage and the intensity of the symptoms. A patient’s age and activity level will also play a role in which surgical procedure will be done. Dr. Nwachukwu offers many different surgical options including:
Shoulder Arthroscopy: This non-invasive procedure is beneficial for mild glenohumeral arthritis and is done using a small surgical camera called an arthroscope. Specialized surgical instruments are inserted through small incisions and are used to remove damaged cartilage, inflamed synovial lining and for smoothing out the joint. While a shoulder arthroscopy may not prevent further damage from arthritis, it can relieve pain, swelling and the other associated symptoms. Dr. Nwachukwu uses this form of treatment to delay or avoid a shoulder joint replacement.
Shoulder Replacement: Also called an arthroplasty, this surgical procedure is beneficial in severe cases of shoulder arthritis. Arthroplasty uses plastic and metal pieces placed in the shoulder to create a new ball and joint. During this open surgery, the ball of the humerus (arm bone) is replaced by a metal ball called a prosthesis. The metal ball attaches with a metal stem that goes inside the humerus. The arthritic socket is then covered by a smooth plastic socket that takes the place of the “cup” within the shoulder. The new motion of smooth metal on the plastic socket eliminates the bone-on-bone arthritis and prevents inflammation which relieves pain. In select cases where patients have rotator cuff arthropathy (arthritis due to an insufficient rotator cuff) a reverse shoulder arthroplasty can be formed. In this procedure the ball is placed on the socket side (“reversed”). This allows the surrounding muscles of the shoulder to compensate for the absence of a rotator cuff.