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Shoulder Cartilage Injuries and Arthritis

Shoulder Cartilage Injuries and Arthritis

The two major bones that make up your shoulder joint are the humerus and the scapula. The point where these bones meet, known as the glenohumeral joint, is covered by cartilage. This helps in the smooth movement of the joint with minimum friction. When this cartilage suffers injuries, movement of the joint becomes painful, limited, and not smooth.

Cartilage injuries in the shoulder vary based on factors such as location and how severe it is. They vary from very small-sized injuries to full loss of cartilage on both sides. When the injury is restricted to only a small area, it is called focal cartilage damage, and when it is large or deep, it is called arthritis. Focal cartilage damage occurs in young or middle-aged persons, and arthritis mainly affects older people.

Symptoms of shoulder arthritis caused by cartilage injuries

When shoulder arthritis occurs because of injuries in cartilage, the following symptoms might show:

  • Shoulder pain that gradually increases during movement.
  • Reduced range of movement.
  • Shoulder becomes weak.
  • Some people feel a popping sensation or clicking sound in the shoulder while moving.
  • Shoulder catch.

Cause of cartilage injury or arthritis

There are many causes behind cartilage injuries, such as:

  • Acute injuries in the shoulder because of falls or any kind of dislocation
  • Chronic, or long-term overuse
  • Specific issues such as osteochondritis

Certain factors enhance the risk of getting cartilage injuries or arthritis, such as a history of shoulder injuries, jobs that need long-term labor or heavy lifting, and activities like powerlifting. A family history of injuries in cartilage or arthritis also increases the chances of getting cartilage injuries or arthritis.


The doctor will first discuss the medical history of the patient and then their genetics and symptoms to make a proper diagnosis. They will also do a physical examination to check for the following:

  • Weakness
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Pain
  • Shoulder injuries
  • Grinding
  • Tenderness

If arthritis is suspected, they might suggest an X-ray to get a clarity on the bones for recognizing the type of arthritis. For instance, they might look for a negligible joint spacing, cysts in bone, spurs, or any structural changes in bones.


After the initial diagnosis of cartilage injuries or arthritis, non-surgical treatment with a primary focus on physical therapy, modification of activity, and anti-inflammation medicines are suggested. Injections are given to decrease inflammation and any kind of pain in the shoulder.

If conventional treatment fails to provide relief, surgical intervention is considered. There are many surgical treatments for shoulder cartilage injuries or arthritis. These include simple arthroscopic debridement, processes for restoring cartilage, shoulder replacement, etc.

Every treatment decision is modified by factoring in variables such as the patient’s age and level of activity and the size, location, and severity of the injury.


Cartilage injuries and arthritis in the shoulder are not easy to predict and prevent. But early detection, modification of activity, and obtaining timely treatment are some of the best ways to prevent those injuries from getting worse over time.

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