Arthritis generally describes joint inflammation either from direct trauma injuries, medical illnesses, or regular wear and tear of an active lifestyle. There are over 100 variations of arthritis which can affect an individual in different parts of the body, and the shoulder is susceptible to different types of arthritis.

Although there are different types of arthritis of the shoulder, they all have some common symptoms such as joint pain in the shoulder, swelling and with time it will eventually limit range of movement.

Here are five distinctive forms of shoulder arthritis:

Rheumatoid Arthritis

A common form of chronic shoulder arthritis is an autoimmune disease called rheumatoid arthritis (RA), when the immune system of the body attacks the tissue lining in the joint to cause inflammation and swelling.

There is extensive joint damage with the bones rubbing against each other, and pain which may cause stiffness in the shoulder.  This stiffness may be more recognizable in the early morning upon waking up.

Some other symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis include:

  • Tenderness in the shoulder joint (may be warm to the touch)
  • Bumps or nodules under the skin in your shoulders
  • Fatigued
  • Weight loss


The most common form of degenerative arthritis, associated with wear and tear of the joints that affect over 33 million people in the U.S. is referred to as osteoarthritis (OA). It can be a result of aging, sporting activities or obesity. As the body ages there is a disintegration of the soft tissues & cushioning cartilage that protect the ends of the joints, which leads to the bones grinding against each other, causing joint pain, stiffness and tenderness.

Post-Traumatic Arthritis

With any shoulder injury, you may also develop post-traumatic arthritis (PA), which is a form of osteoarthritis. Shoulder injuries are common due to the instability of the hinge joint and a fracture or shoulder dislocation can trigger the onset of posttraumatic arthritis. Accidental injuries or injuries sustained while playing contact sports may also cause this condition. PA results in fluid retention in the shoulder joint and may cause considerable pain and swelling.

Avascular Necrosis

Avascular necrosis (AVN) is a progressive disease that results in death of bone joint tissue when any injury or illness restricts the supply of blood flow to the shoulder, resulting in shoulder arthritis.

Bone cells need a healthy supply of blood carrying oxygen and nutrients, so when the blood circulation is cut off, the bone cell tissues weaken making the shoulder prone to arthritis. This condition can be the result of joint dislocations, fractures and taking high doses of steroids or even excessive drinking are known risk factors.

Rotator Cuff Tear Arthropathy

The shoulder has a rotator cuff to connect the shoulder blade to the top of your arm through a network of tendons and muscles. Rotator cuff injuries are common from overuse or accidents and a rip in the tendons of the rotator cuff can cause a form of shoulder arthritis called rotator cuff tear arthropathy.

The torn cuff cannot support or move the head of the humerus, which begins to shift and rub against the acromion, gradually causing arthritis from bone damage. With this form of arthritis there is accompanied severe pain and weakness in the shoulder muscles that can make lifting anything very tedious.

The Illinois Bone & Joint Institute has more than 90 orthopedic physicians, and 20 locations throughout Chicago. We’re here to help you move better so you can live better.