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Causes of Shoulder Arthritis

Arthritis is an inflammatory condition of the joints, which occurs when the body sustains excessive levels of inflammation over long periods. This leads to a breakdown of the cartilage in the joint, affecting the soft cushioning that protects the joint’s bones from friction and shock.

There are several forms of shoulder arthritis, with the most widespread ones being osteoarthritis (also known as “wear-and-tear” arthritis) and rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack its own tissue.

The following are some of the most common causes of shoulder arthritis.


Aging involves a natural loss of cartilage, making this one of the most common causes of wear-and-tear arthritis. Other aspects of aging – such as weaker ligaments and shrinking muscles – can also negatively affect the musculoskeletal system and speed up arthritis degeneration. In particular, shoulder arthritis is more likely to develop in people aged 55 and over.  

Shoulder Injury

A new or old shoulder injury (including fractures, sprains, strains, and ruptures) can irreversibly damage the cartilage in the shoulder’s ball-and-socket structure. Because the cartilage has little regenerative power, a shoulder injury can lead to the development of arthritis, as well as mechanical issues that cause bones to rub against each other. 

Excessive Repeated Stress

Although arthritis can be simply caused by aging, the motions you perform throughout your life or as part of your daily activity can increase your risk of suffering from this condition. For example, if you regularly practice sports that involve shoulder movements (such as tennis, volleyball, or baseball) you might be exposing your shoulder joint to excessive repetitive stress over long periods. This speeds up the degeneration of the cartilage, which may lead to arthritis. 


Females are at greater risk of developing shoulder arthritis. There are multiple reasons for this, including the following:

  • During menopause, the levels of inflammation-fighting estrogen drop, leaving women more exposed to inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. 
  • Females have a stronger immune system than males, which makes them more susceptible to inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. 
  • Women are more likely than men to become obese, which is a risk factor for arthritis.


Some genetic and hereditary factors can increase the risk of shoulder arthritis, including genetic mutations, cartilage quality, and a medical history of arthritis. 

Abnormal Shoulder Mechanics

Bones or soft tissue malformations can impact the shoulder joint’s mechanics. This can cause the cartilage to become uneven or damaged in one or more areas. Conditions such as shoulder impingement syndrome can also lead to the development of arthritic conditions due to irritated tissues, such as ligaments or tendons.

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Symptoms of Shoulder Arthritis

shoulder osteoarthritis stages

Arthritic conditions develop over time. In the early stages of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, patients might experience mild discomfort. However, as the cartilage continues to wear down, arthritis can become a debilitating condition defined by chronic and acute pain.  This may lead to reduced range of motion, stiffness, swelling, or malformations of the joint in extreme cases. 

In the shoulder, arthritis can affect the glenohumeral joint (the ball-and-socket joint at the back of the shoulder) or the acromioclavicular (AC) joint, which is located at the top of the shoulder. Depending on which joint is affected by arthritis, you might experience the following symptoms in different areas of the shoulder. 

Let’s look at the telltale signs of arthritis in more detail below. 

Chronic Shoulder Pain

One of the main causes of shoulder arthritis is pain, which might begin at the back, front, or top of the shoulder and radiate throughout the arm. Arthritic pain worsens after performing intense physical activity, which stresses the tissue left unprotected by the degrading cartilage.

Inhibited Range of Motion

As the cartilage in the shoulder joints wears away, the bones are left to rub against each other. This can irritate and damage surrounding tissues such as ligaments or tendons, and can change the mechanics of the shoulder joint. 

Over time, the changes in the joint’s structure, coupled with pain and swelling, can prevent you from freely moving your arm or shoulder. 


In people with shoulder arthritis, stiffness is dictated by higher levels of inflammation, swelling, and pain. 

These reactions are all part of the body’s immune response, which involves increasing blood flow and liquid build-up in the inflamed area. Stiffness tends to get worse after periods of inactivity (i.e.: in the morning) because the fascia around the muscles tightens when resting. 


Another common symptom of arthritis is a “popping”, “grinding”, or “clicking” noise accompanied by pain when moving your shoulder. These sounds happen when the components of the joint briefly lock up during movement. 

If arthritis caused deformities in the shoulder joint, crepitus might also be due to ligaments and tendons snapping from one bony surface to another when moving the shoulder.

Regenerative Treatment Options for Shoulder Arthritis

Although shoulder arthritis might seem like nothing more than a minor condition at first, it is important not to underestimate the symptoms you are experiencing. If left unaddressed, arthritis can end up affecting many aspects of your life, might cause chronic pain, and could inhibit everyday activities such as dressing, driving, or cooking. 

Knowing what’s causing your shoulder pain and stiffness can help you find an adequate treatment program that can help prevent the disease from progressing without medications or surgery. 

Below, we’ll look at the procedures at Orthagenex to offer patients to treat shoulder OA. 

Concentrated PRP for Shoulder OA

Orthagenex’s PRP procedures involve a refined methodology of creating super-concentrated platelet-rich plasma that is far superior to standard PRP solutions. The extraction and concentration process of platelets, performed under strict protocols, is designed to ensure a higher concentration of growth factors — 10 – 40x over baseline value. This super-concentrated PRP approach aims to optimize patient outcomes by stimulating the body’s natural healing processes. These protocols bring together advanced imaging guidance, meticulous sterile techniques, and the precise application of super-concentrated PRP to optimize the therapeutic benefits of the treatment.

Through this, Orthagenex has been able to offer treatments that not only tackle a wide array of orthopedic conditions with PRP alone (or aided by BMC), including shoulder arthritis. This is particularly beneficial for patients seeking non-invasive treatments for joint and soft tissue injuries and conditions.

Bone Marrow Concentrate Stem Cell Injections for Shoulder Arthritis

At Orthagenex, advanced technologies and procedures are leveraged to address various orthopedic conditions, including the pioneering use of Bone Marrow Concentrate (BMC) injections. This innovative technique centers around the precise delivery of bone marrow concentrate containing stem cells into the injured area or damaged tissue. This is achieved by using imaging guidance by MSK ultrasound and fluoroscopy, which ensures a high degree of accuracy in the procedure. The result is an enhancement of the body’s natural healing processes, stimulating the repair of damaged tissues.

Patients undergoing Bone Marrow Concentrate injections at Orthagenex benefit from non- invasive procedures that require very little downtime. This is a significant advantage over traditional surgeries, which often lead to long, painful rehabilitation periods to restore joint strength and mobility. The bone marrow concentrate injections provided at Orthagenex aim to help patients avoid these arduous recovery periods.



Shoulder arthritis can be a debilitating condition that, if left unaddressed, can cause you to rely on medication or surgery to make your everyday activities bearable. Fortunately, thanks to the advances in regenerative orthopedics, today’s patients can benefit from ad hoc therapies that don’t involve invasive procedures or drugs to restore their mobility and quality of life.

If you are ready to take the first step towards regaining your shoulder’s health, Orthagenex can help.

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Powder Springs, GA | New Lenox, IL

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