How Physical Therapy Improves the Symptoms of Shoulder Arthritis

Unfortunately, there’s no cure for shoulder arthritis and the only way to treat this disease is by managing the associated symptoms. When used as part of a comprehensive treatment program prescribed by an orthopedic specialist, physical therapy can improve or even eliminate the painful symptoms of shoulder arthritis. Here’s everything you need to know:

How Arthritis Affects the Shoulder Joint

The shoulder is made up of the upper arm bone (humerus), scapula and clavicle. Arthritis affects the shoulder at the acromioclavicular and glenohumeral joints.

shoulder joint

Illustration 1- The joints of the shoulder

When left untreated, the severity of shoulder arthritis and related symptoms increase.

The Symptoms of Shoulder Arthritis

The most common symptom of shoulder arthritis is a deep, aching pain felt in the joint and/or on top of the shoulder. Other symptoms might include:

  • Decreased range of motion (ROM)
  • Weakness
  • Tenderness
  • Stiffness
  • Cracking, clicking, and/or popping sounds when moving the shoulder

Any or all of these symptoms can reach the point where they begin to limit your ability to perform daily activities.  It is at this point where professional treatment, in the form of physical therapy, is needed for symptom relief.

How Physical Therapy Decreases the Symptoms of Shoulder Arthritis

 A physical therapist uses the following treatments for effective symptom relief:

  • Strengthening exercises. Improving the strength of the rotator cuff and other shoulder muscles decrease weakness and stiffness and increase range of motion. Strong shoulder muscles help take pressure off the arthritic joints, which decreases pain.
  • Heat and ice. Applying heat relaxes the shoulder muscles to improve range of motion. Applying ice decreases inflammation and pain.
  • Ultrasound and electrical stimulation. Activating weak muscles using ultrasound and electrical stimulation improves atrophy and weakness.
  • Massaging shoulder and upper back muscles increases blow flow, which decreases inflammation and pain.
  • Stretching exercises. Stretching exercises improve range of motion.

A comprehensive treatment program uses these treatments in conjunction with others that can only be prescribed by an orthopedic specialist. The result of this type of holistic treatment approach to shoulder arthritis is symptom relief or elimination. In many cases, results are long lasting. The key is diagnosing and treating the condition as soon as possible.

Arranging an Appointment with an Orthopedic Specialist

If you’re experiencing shoulder pain and have yet to find relief, please contact one of 5 Long Island offices to arrange an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. If physical therapy is one of the treatment options that’s right for you, you’ll be in a great position to live a functional, pain-free life.

The physicians at Total Orthopedics and Sports Medicine focus on both the surgical and non-surgical treatment of shoulder injuries and are one of the most innovative orthopedic practices in the area.  Dr. Charles Ruotolo, President of Total Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, has published several peer-reviewed studies on orthopedic care and orthopedic surgery of the shoulder.

Fortunately, many patients can be treated non-surgically with a combination of conservative modalities coordinated by the Total Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Team. If surgery is necessary, the practice uses a multidisciplinary approach to create a treatment plan that focuses on the patient’s lifestyle and activities and helps them get back to those activities quickly and effectively.  Expect a full recovery when in the hands of our trusted physicians.

The road to recovery starts when you walk through our doors.

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