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Shoulder arthritis? What to do for pain reduction and better function?

Shoulder pain can be really debilitating, especially when we rely on our shoulders and arms for almost everything in our daily life. Dealing with shoulder pain can severely limit our daily living.

1 in 11 Australians (9.3%) have osteoarthritis, approximately 2.2 million people in 2017–18. (1) Arthritis commonly affects the shoulder in the older population. Even though it is predominantly age-related it can affect anyone, particularly if there has been prior trauma, surgery or the individual has had a very physical job.

So what is exactly osteoarthritis?

Also known as degenerative joint disease which occurs when the cartilage that covers the tops of bones degenerates or wears down. (2) This causes swelling, pain, and sometimes the development of small bony spurs when the ends of the two bones rub together. Osteoarthritis most often occurs in people who are over age 50. In younger people, osteoarthritis can result from an injury or trauma, such as a fractured or dislocated shoulder.

So what kind of symptoms do you get with shoulder osteoarthritis?

So a lot of the times when you have arthritis in the shoulder itself, a lot of the pain will be referred to as the back of the shoulder or on the top of the shoulder. Generally, stiffness is common in the shoulder, especially first thing in the morning. As you move throughout the day the stiffness gets better and a little less pain. Another symptom is that people will complain about lying on the side of the shoulder. That is because there will be compression of the shoulder joint. (2)

Crepitus or the painful snap, crackle or pop noises with movement may be an indicator to shoulder arthritis. Sometimes, noises are normal due to tendons and ligaments flicking over the joint or the release of air pockets in the joint. (3) Usually if there are noises associated with pain then the arthritis is playing a part. A major indicator of shoulder arthritis is decreased mobility.

For instance putting a seat belt on, putting a bra strap on or washing your hair.

So how do we help with shoulder pain and osteoarthritis?

As we cannot change the structure of the bone or reverse osteoarthritis. We aim by strengthening everything around the shoulder joint, by providing good stability so all the muscles will support the shoulder when under load. Having stronger rotator cuff muscles provides more protection of the shoulder. Working on posture, by having a more upright posture without having rolled forward shoulders will improve the ability to move the shoulder joint. We focus on joint mobility and will use our MLS Laser to help reduce inflammation of the shoulder joint. Putting all these together will help get back to full or better function of the shoulder joint.


  1. Singh JA, Sperling J, Buchbinder R, McMaken K. Surgery for shoulder osteoarthritis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 10. Art. No.: CD008089. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD008089.pub2. Accessed 22 June 2022.

  2. Moor BK, Bouaicha S, Rothenfluh DA, Sukthankar A, Gerber C (2013) Is there an association between the individual anatomy of the scapula and the development of rotator cuff tears or osteoarthritis of the glenohumeral joint? A radiological study of the critical shoulder angle. Bone Joint J 95-B:935–941


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