Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common condition in older adults. Sometimes referred to as degenerative joint disease it is wear and tear of the joints, involving damage to the cartilage of the joint resulting in pain and stiffness. Most people are aware of OA occurring in the knees and hips, but it can affect the shoulder joint as well.
OA of the shoulder joint is usually a result of repetitive use of the shoulder with poor postures, or previous injury to the shoulder that has precipitated the degeneration of the joint cartilage and joint capsule.
As with other forms of OA, it is important to keep your shoulder moving and keep them strong. The shoulder joint relies heavily on muscles for stability so keeping the muscles strong and lengthened will help the stability of the shoulder, take some of the strain off the cartilage of the shoulder joint and reduce the pain levels.
Here are six tips to help manage OA of the shoulder
- Try to limit the activities of the shoulder that aggravate your pain symptoms. Sometimes we are not aware of what is provoking the pain but if you are mindful of what you are doing you may be able to identify the activities that contributing to the flare ups.
- Speak to your doctor about the best medication to take to help manage the pain.
- Keep the muscles of the shoulders and trunk strong to protect the shoulder joint and reduce the stress the joint is exposed to as you attend to your daily activities.
- Keep the shoulder moving through a full range of movement every day
- Address any postural issues you may have in sitting and standing
- Try to improve anything that encourages poor posture. This may include:
- Poor workstation set up that leads to slumped posture including a:
- Low computer monitor
- Unsupportive office desk
- A reclined and unsupportive car seat
- Poor seating while watching the TV /Netflix
- A too low workbench
OA of any joint has its good and bad days. Learning to adapt and manage the pain on those problem days will help to minimise the extent of a flare up.
Here are 2 exercises that will help:
Scapula Retraction/ shoulder blade squeeze – this will help strengthen the muscles around the shoulder blade and improve your posture
- Start in an upright seated or standing tall position.
- Gently squeeze your shoulder blades together, drawing them back and down as your elbows come out and back.
- Try not to arch your back
- Repeat x10.
Overhead arms in lying – this will help the shoulder movement
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Hold a stick (could be a walking stick) across your pelvis in both hands. Your hands should be shoulder width apart.
- Keeping your shoulder blades flattened on the floor, lift the stick with both hands up towards the ceiling and over your head as far as it is comfortable. Aiming to touch the floor above you.
- Keep your arms straight throughout the movement.
- Control the movement as you lower your arms and the stick back to the starting position.
- Repeat x10.