Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and is caused when the smooth cartilage surface of an articulating/moving joint wears away until there is bone-on-bone contact that results in both loss of movement and pain. Although OA most commonly affects the joints under the greatest load (the hips and the knees), it can occur in any moving joint, including those that make up the shoulder.
Because cartilage lacks a direct blood supply, it relies on a process called diffusion in which nutrients are absorbed into cartilage when it’s compressed by movement. Anything that restricts the movement of the joint (like inflammation or injury) can slow or cut off its supply of nutrients, placing the tissue at risk for injury and degeneration.
When a patient presents for care involving OA of the shoulder, chiropractic treatment will generally focus on improving the motion of the affected joints with manipulation, mobilization, manual traction, manual massage, active release techniques, acupuncture, physical therapy modalities (such as ultrasound or electronic stim), nutritional counseling, and home-based exercises.
Here are some additional ways to self-manage osteoarthritis of the shoulder:
- Stay Active: Movement/exercise is the BEST way to keep joint cartilage nourished and healthy. Many people can manage the pain often without medication by simply pacing themselves and by staying active.
- Eat a Healthy Diet: Keep your diet balanced and emphasize foods that reduce inflammation or swelling like omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), ginger, turmeric, Boswellia, and more.
- Reduce the Load on the Joints: This includes losing weight, as well as modifying job/lifestyle activities that routinely place force on the affected joints.
- Get Plenty of Sleep: Several studies show that getting too little or too much sleep each night can lead to poor outcomes. Aim for seven to nine hours of restful sleep.
- Use Hot/Cold Packs: This is a great way to reduce inflammation.
- Supplements: Consider glucosamine and chondroitin.
Generally, the more advanced the case, the longer it will take to achieve a successful outcome, if at all. That’s why it’s important to seek care sooner rather than later when you experience pain in the shoulder or any other part of the body.