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Glenohumeral Arthritis

Glenohumeral arthritis is a degenerative condition affecting the glenohumeral cartilage of the shoulder. Both joints in the shoulder (the glenohumeral and the AC joint) can be affected by arthritis and share common symptoms.

(AC joint arthritis is more centralised to the top of the shoulder and movements above the head. With glenohumeral arthritis, pain is more spread out and involves movement in all directions.)

Cartilage is the connective tissue that protects the bones in the joint and allows movement. The cartilage is tough and elastic and provides a smooth, flexible surface for mobility in the joint. As the body ages, the smooth surface of the cartilage wears down and becomes rough. Eventually the bones can become exposed and rub against each other as they increasingly lack the protection of the cartilage. This rubbing can deform or disable the joint, limit the motion of the arm and cause a lot of pain.

Glenohumeral arthritis is not as common as arthritis in weight bearing joints (hip or knee), but is mostly found in patients over the age of 60.


Initial signs of glenohumeral arthritis may be a feeling of tenderness and pain in the upper arm, shoulder, and in a few cases the forearm, chest and neck. Motion in the shoulder may become limited and movements which compress the joint, like reaching the arm across the chest or under the chin will cause pain in the shoulder.

Everyday activities that include reaching overhead will be difficult, there may be swelling in the joint, and the affected shoulder may appear larger than usual. The shoulder can seem to click or snap as it moves.

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