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Shoulder arthritis is a painful medical condition which many individuals experience. It can occur due to gradual wear and tear of the joints, chronic labrum or rotator cuff tearing, trauma, shoulder dislocation, or inflammatory arthritis.

Shoulder Arthritis Pain Relief Is Possible With Exercise and Home Treatment Methods
A man with shoulder arthritis pain.

Arthritis in this area of the body is common in active adults, although not as common as knee arthritis. Research suggests that around 32.8% of patients over the age of 60 experience osteoarthritis. [1]

Fortunately, there are many home treatment methods for osteoarthritis of the shoulder, if caused by degenerative joint disease or some other cause, including arthritis exercises.

Having a way to combat the pain and discomfort associated with osteoarthritis of the shoulders in the comfort of your own home is a goal for many. It’s also important to have methods available which don’t relate to surgery, which can have negative effects or prescription medications that simply dull the pain without helping to permanently reduce it.

What Does Arthritis Consist Of?

Many have heard the terms “arthritis” or “osteoarthritis” being mentioned, either by friends or medical health professionals, but may not know what constitutes arthritis. Osteoarthritis has many different stages:

  • Mild arthritis: Mild cartilage wear and tear at the end of the bone with mild joint space narrowing
  • Moderate arthritis: Moderate wear and tear of the bone with localized deficits in the cartilage; moderate joint space narrowing; bone spur/osteophyte formation; mild to moderate range of motion loss in the shoulder
  • Severe arthritis: Bone approaching bone; bone rubbing on bone in the joint; large osteophyte/bone spur formation; near-complete or complete loss of the joint space; moderate loss of shoulder joint range of motion

With all of these degrees of osteoarthritis, the individual may feel joint pain, discomfort in the joints, joint tightness, loss of joint mobility, loss of range of motion, and other symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Shoulder Arthritis

Arthritis of the shoulders can present in numerous ways. There are many signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for and these help your medical professional to diagnose shoulder osteoarthritis. Signs and symptoms of arthritis of the shoulder include the following:

  • Pain in the shoulder joint
  • Pain with overhead reaching
  • Pain when reaching out to the side
  • Pain with reaching behind the back
  • Range of motion loss

The type and amount of symptoms along with the degree thereof will vary amongst individuals. Some osteoarthritis symptoms will be continual whereas others may come and go from time to time or worsen after strenuous activity.

Treatment Methods Prescribed for Shoulder Arthritis

Once diagnosed with shoulder arthritis by your physician, your medical professional may prescribe various options for arthritis treatments. From non-invasive to invasive treatment options, individuals suffering from arthritis in this area do have various treatment methods to choose from.

Treatment methods to help alleviate pain in your joints which may be prescribed by your orthopedic doctor are as follows:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Moist heat
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Physical therapy
  • Stretches and shoulder pain exercises
  • Steroid injection [2]
  • Surgery

When deciding on a treatment method to combat your joint pain, you should keep the following decision-making factors in mind:

  • Orthopaedic doctor recommendation
  • Your personal preference
  • Treatment success rate
  • Invasiveness of the treatment method for arthritis of the shoulders
  • Length of time for the treatment to take effect
  • Recovery time

What Home Treatment Methods Are Available to Combat Shoulder Arthritis?

In order to lessen the joint pain associated with your osteoarthritis, you can pursue various home treatment methods. From immediate pain relief methods, such as icing your sore shoulder, to thinking about arthritis pain relief now and in the future through exercises, there are many home treatment methods to choose from in your quest for pain-free (or at least pain-reduced) living.

Here are some of the home treatment methods you should try when you suffer from shoulder osteoarthritis and want to alleviate joint discomfort and reduce inflammation:

  • Apply ice to the shoulder joint
  • Apply moist heat to the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint
  • Engage in stretches targeting the shoulder and surrounding upper body region
  • Perform arthritis exercise for shoulder discomfort
  • Rest to lessen shoulder movement
READ NEXTRheumatoid Arthritis

Why Shoulder Arthritis Exercises and Home Treatment Methods Are Ideal?

Many individuals who suffer from joint pain and discomfort as a result of shoulder arthritis find that exercises and other home treatment methods are the best ways to deal with this medical condition. Other individuals may find that NSAIDs, injections, or ultimately, surgery, are the only ways they wish to engage in the fight against osteoarthritis.

For the people who choose to perform the exercise for arthritis in shoulder joint pain and other home treatment methods to deal with their upper extremity arthritis, they may do so for the following reasons:

  • Shoulder muscle exercise and home treatment methods provide a noninvasive way to obtain pain relief
  • Exercising at home, as well as other home treatment methods, is convenient
  • Shoulder exercises have beneficial results
  • Battling shoulder arthritis through exercise and additional home treatment methods is affordable
  • Shoulder arthritis exercises can be completed at any time, day or night
  • Exercises targeting the shoulder area help with mobility and pain relief in other parts of the body as well

Whether you choose to use shoulder exercises and additional home treatment methods as your sole way deal with shoulder arthritis or use it in conjunction with injections and NSAIDs, it’s an excellent idea to learn how to do these shoulder arthritis exercises properly.

What Types of Shoulder Arthritis Exercises Work the Best?

Doctors recommend shoulder exercises and warm-up stretches as a way to help with arthritis of this type. [3]

Why? Because it works! With that said, it’s important to know the proper shoulder exercises to do in order to have beneficial results and not worsen your arthritis of the shoulder or cause other medical issues from improper stretching and exercise.

warm-up stretches for shoulder arthritis

Exercises For Shoulder Pain Relief & Rehab

Some of the shoulder exercises for pain can be completed in the comfort of your own home while others will require some assistance from a specialist. Shoulder arthritis exercise options and tips to relieve shoulder pain include the following:

  • Rehabilitation exercises
  • Band exercises
  • Physical therapy
  • Weightlifting
  • Yoga
exercise for shoulder arthritis

Exercise for Shoulder Arthritis

Prior to completing shoulder arthritis exercises, it’s important to consult with a medical health professional to know which exercise is best for your particular arthritis of the shoulder.

You want to be careful not to overdo it in the exercise department as doing more than you are able or more than your shoulder can take will not help you but could hurt you. Care has to be taken as how far to push the range of motion exercises, especially if mobility is limited due to space narrowing or bone spurs.

As to which of the shoulder arthritis exercise options listed above is the best, physical therapy is often stated to be the most beneficial. The activities are prescribed by a physical therapist who knows exactly what exercises are best for shoulder arthritis and how to create a proper physical therapy regimen with these specific exercises in mind.

weightlifting for shoulder arthritis

Weightlifting for Shoulder Arthritis

In order to find out more information on osteoarthritis treatment exercises for shoulder discomfort, you can search for arthritis exercises on Twitter, subscribe to a physical therapy arthritis exercise website, or follow a website or Facebook page that offers helpful advice on shoulder exercises and stretches for arthritis.

If you know others who suffer from osteoarthritis of the shoulder, you can even share your newly-found exercises with them.

Can Shoulder Arthritis Be Permanently Removed?

For those individuals who want a permanent solution to arthritis of the shoulder, permanent solutions can be pursued. Arthritis of the shoulder can be permanently removed by scraping arthritis off of the shoulder joint and replacing it with a prosthesis. This procedure takes place during joint replacement surgery.

With that said, joint replacement surgery is an invasive procedure which requires recuperation time and patience. If noninvasive solutions are what you seek, shoulder exercises and home treatment methods will help to alleviate the pain and get you back to your normal daily routine. Well, the market has many joint pain relief products such as ArthriPhase that help to ease joint pain and discomfort.

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3 Sources

We review published medical research in respected scientific journals to arrive at our conclusions about a product or health topic. This ensures the highest standard of scientific accuracy.

[1] Shane Anderson A, Loeser RF. Why is osteoarthritis an age-related disease?. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol. 2010;24(1):15-26. doi:10.1016/j.berh.2009.08.006
[2] Chillemi C, Franceschini V. Shoulder osteoarthritis. Arthritis. 2013;2013:370231. doi:10.1155/2013/370231
[3] 14 Physical Therapy Shoulder Pain Exercises & Rehab:
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Dr. Kristina DeMatas


Dr. Kristina DeMatas is a family and sports medicine Physician at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. She is also the founder of Spor