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Arthritis of the Shoulder

Arthritis is a degenerative condition that involves losing cartilage in a joint. Joint cartilage is the smooth tissue covering the ends of bones that lets the joints move easily. Cartilage can be injured or lost over time as the result of many conditions, including primary osteoarthritis (normal wear and tear); inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis; or a history of previous injuries, such as shoulder dislocations or broken bones. Arthritis can also develop in the shoulder after long-standing rotator cuff tears, a condition known as cuff tear arthropathy.

The shoulder area has two joints. One is located where the collarbone (clavicle) meets the acromion, the tip of the shoulder blade (scapula). This is called the acromioclavicular – or AC – joint. The other, called the glenohumeral joint, is at the junction of the upper arm bone (humerus) and the shoulder blade. Arthritis can affect either joint or both. To provide you with an effective treatment plan, your doctor needs to determine which joint is affected and which type of arthritis you have.

Our Approach to Arthritis of the Shoulder

In treating shoulder arthritis, our goals are to relieve pain and restore function. We begin with nonsurgical approaches, such as oral anti-inflammatory medications, ice and heat application, and physical therapy. If these measures don't bring relief, surgery may be necessary. Surgical treatment generally works well to reduce pain and restore range of motion.

UCSF is a national leader in shoulder replacement surgery. We closely follow our patients' outcomes to ensure that we are constantly improving and refining our methods. UCSF often has ongoing research studies of shoulder replacement; interested patients may be able to participate.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Among the top hospitals in the nation

  • usnews-orthopedics

    One of the nation's best for orthopedic care

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.