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Glenohumeral Arthritis

What is Glenohumeral Arthritis?

Glenohumeral arthritis is caused by degeneration or wearing down of the cartilage layer covering the bones in the Glenohumeral joint (GHJ). This results in a bone-on-bone contact within the joint, which encourages the body to produce bone spurs, also known as osteophytes. As these rough joint surfaces rub against each other, shoulder movement becomes limited and uncomfortable. Range of motion is gradually lost as the osteophytes continue to develop.  

Glenohumeral Arthritis

What causes Glenohumeral Arthritis?

There are several conditions that can cause the breakdown of cartilage in a joint:

  • Chronic rotator cuff injury/tears: – This causes the head of the humerus to be in an abnormal position against the glenoid fossa.
  • Chronic overuse or wear and tear over time
  • Trauma: – Fracture or dislocation
  • Chronic inflammatory condition (Rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Osteonecrosis: – bone death caused by loss of blood supply
  • Post-surgical changes that can be a result of over-tightening during instability surgery (sometimes a frozen shoulder can occur following a rotator cuff or capsule repair surgery)

Symptoms of Glenohumeral Arthritis

The two main symptoms of GHJ arthritis are Pain and Loss of range of motion:

  1. Pain: – This may be mild to moderate in the beginning and not always there. But as the condition progresses the pain may be more persistent. Pain and stiffness experienced all day and especially at night. This can make sleep difficult at night due to it being uncomfortable to lie on one’s side.
  2. Loss of Range of motion: – This can occur because of pain, inflammation, locking from osteophytes within the joint or from a weakness of the rotator cuff muscles (either from an old injury or surgery).
  3. Other symptoms can include: – swelling, an abnormal resting position of the shoulder (possible hiked up), clicking or crunching felt and/or heard when moving the shoulder.

How is GHJ arthritis diagnosed?

A physical examination accompanied by diagnostic imaging (X-Ray, CT or MRI) are used to diagnose GHJ arthritis. Arthrograms are also used occasionally.

How is Glenohumeral Arthritis treated?

Conservative treatments in mild to moderate cases involve rest, NSAIDS, stretches, exercises and mobilizations of the shoulder. 

More severe conditions usually require surgical intervention (either debridement or shoulder replacement).


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