The glenohumeral (GH) joint is the ball-and-socket shoulder joint. It is susceptible to osteoarthritis due to wear and tear from frequent use as a person ages. This can lead to problems with mobility and pain.
This article looks at GH osteoarthritis, including its symptoms, stages, causes, and risk factors. It also explains diagnosis, treatment, possible complications, and the outlook for people with the condition.
Osteoarthritis (OA) occurs over time as general use wears down the smooth cartilage that covers bone. As the cartilage wears away and becomes rough, the protective area between the bones diminishes, and they begin to rub against each other during movement. This can result in pain and a limited range of motion.
Although the GH joint is not a major target site of OA, it can occur there. GH osteoarthritis affects around
It affects the GH joint in the shoulder, where the ball joint, called the humerus, fits into the socket, called the scapula.
If doctors find that the GH joint has degenerated, they will look for an underlying inflammatory condition predisposing a person to OA.
GH osteoarthritis can impact a person’s quality of life in numerous ways, such as causing or worsening mental health conditions, disrupting sleep, and impacting independence by preventing people from performing certain movements.
Symptoms may gradually worsen over time and can include:
- Stage 1 (minor): There may be slight damage to the cartilage and a narrowing of space between the joint and the bone. An X-ray or imaging test may reveal bone growths called osteophytes. People
typicallydo not experience pain during this stage.
- Stage 2 (mild): An X-ray
may revealbone spurs and a slight narrowing between the joint and the bone. The bone may also become denser, and the surrounding tissues may harden. The bones do not rub against each other at this stage. However, some minor damage may be apparent.
- Stage 3 (moderate): At
this stage, cartilage damage will be visible, the ends of the bones may show some deformity, bone spurs may be apparent, and the space between the bones and the joint will be noticeably narrowed.
- Stage 4 (severe): An X-ray of the GH joint at this stage
would revealsignificant bone spurs, noticeable cartilage damage, severe narrowing of the space between the bones and joint, and deformity at the ends of the bones. A person may experience severe pain, constant inflammation, friction in the joint, and recurring stiffness.
Secondary causes include:
- trauma, such as dislocation
- infectious or crystalline arthropathy, a group of joint disorders in which crystal deposits form in the joints and surrounding soft tissues
- avascular necrosis, which is the death of bone tissue due to an interruption in the blood supply
- an underlying inflammatory or autoimmune condition, especially rheumatoid arthritis
General risk factors for osteoarthritis include:
- aging, with people over 50 years old at higher risk
- sex assigned at birth, as females are at higher risk than males
- a family history of osteoarthritis
- surgery or past trauma of the joint
- joint overuse
- a joint that does not line up correctly
To diagnose GH osteoarthritis, a doctor may take a personal and family medical history and perform or order various tests. These may
- a physical exam
- imaging scans, such as X-rays, scans, and ultrasounds, which can reveal inflammation, bone spurs, and narrowing of the space between the bone and the joint
- blood tests, which can help rule out other potential causes of symptoms, such as inflammatory arthritis
- a synovial fluid analysis, in which the doctor withdraws fluid from the joint for laboratory analysis to help eliminate other diagnoses
Treatment for GH osteoarthritis aims to minimize functional loss and pain. Options may
- avoiding overuse of the joint and activities that cause pain
- regular exercise to help improve strength around the shoulder joint
- occupational therapy
- weight loss for patients with obesity to reduce strain on the joint
- using supportive equipment, such as a brace or splint
- topical or oral medication such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen
- joint injections, such as glucocorticoids
Complications of GH osteoarthritis can include:
- decreased range of motion of the shoulder
- malalignment of the shoulder
- injury or damage to the nerve roots in the shoulder
While no cure for osteoarthritis exists, treatment can help people manage and reduce symptoms.
The condition is progressive and worsens over time. Certain risk factors can cause rapid progression, such as obesity and advanced age.
Surgeries such as joint replacement may improve a person’s outlook, although surgeons may need to replace prosthetic joints within
It is best for people to discuss their individual outlooks and treatment options with a medical professional.
Glenohumeral (GH) osteoarthritis occurs as the cartilage in the ball-and-socket shoulder joint wears down over time, and the bones begin to rub against each other.
The condition can cause severe pain and impact the shoulder’s range of motion. It is progressive and typically occurs due to wear and tear over time. Risk factors include aging, obesity, and a family history of osteoarthritis.
There is currently no cure for the condition. However, treatments such as medication and exercise may help people manage their symptoms.