Arthritic Shoulder? 4 Reasons To Consider A Joint Replacement

Posted on: 16 January 2017

Several types of arthritis can affect the shoulder causing considerable pain and loss of function. Eventually, you may reach a point when you need to make the decision to have your shoulder replaced instead of continuing with temporary treatments. There are several situations when a replacement is the better strategy.

Reliance On Steroid Injections

Steroid injections may be used to provide relief from arthritis in a single joint. Injectable steroids are usually limited to three or four times per year in a single joint because there are long-term risks of bone necrosis and other complications. If you have found steroid injections provide adequate relief, but you need regular injections just to maintain functioning, it may be time to consider surgical options with someone like Joseph P. Spott, DO. Additionally, if steroid injections are no longer working or they seem to wear off quickly, it is time for a permanent treatment option. Since you want to preserve as much healthy bone as possible, it is better to make the decision before you experience any possible side effects from having frequent steroid injections.

Development Of Nerve Or Soft Tissue Damage

Chronic, severe arthritis can cause problems for the structures surrounding your shoulder, such as the nerves and soft tissues. The inflammation in your shoulder can cause nerve irritation or swelling can compress nerves. You may notice shooting pain, numbness, or tingling that travels from your shoulder down your arm. Another sign of nerve irritation or compression is developing weakness in your arm. You will likely develop some mild weakness in the affected arm from muscle atrophy, since you likely do not use your arm as much as before. Significant weakness is more noticeable when it affects basic tasks, such as holding a cup of coffee because it feels unusually heavy.

Soft tissue damage is also problematic because the muscles and tendons near the joint help it remain secured in the socket. The threat of soft tissue damage is more likely to occur if rheumatoid arthritis is the underlying cause of shoulder damage. When soft tissue damage is significant, it can make a future joint replacement harder because repairs will  need to be made to support the replacement.

Significant Changes In Function

Although having a shoulder replacement is often based on the amount of pain you experience, the way it impacts your life can be more important. When activities of daily living become impossible, this is often a sign you need more aggressive treatment options. You should also consider how adapting to a problematic shoulder might make the other shoulder worse and cause premature degeneration of other joints. For example, if you are relying heavily on your other shoulder to carry items, you will likely notice progressive pains on that side. Having a shoulder replacement at this stage can help spare other joints from unnecessary damage.

Interference With Sleep

When you have arthritis, one of the major markers of severity is its interference with sleep. Arthritis in the shoulder is especially difficult because you are often limited to a single sleeping position, even lying on your back may cause pain in the affected shoulder. In some cases, finding a comfortable position for sleep is not the only problem; you may wake up one or more times during the night with severe pain.

If you are unsure whether your shoulder is affecting your sleep throughout the night, you might want to think about whether you feel like your sleep quality has changed since you experienced problems with your shoulder. Some people who have others in their household might be told they toss and turn throughout the night. If no one is around to tell you, you might notice you wake up tired, sweaty, or your bedding is in disarray. These could all be signs pain is interfering with your sleep.

Since having a shoulder replacement is a major surgery, it is not always an easy decision. When arthritis in your should is decreasing your quality of life and other treatments have failed, it is time to consider a long-term option.