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Can a Dislocated Shoulder Cause Arthritis?

Patient holding shoulder in painOsteoarthritis in the shoulder is a degenerative joint disease that is common in people aged 50 and older. Although the condition is less prevalent in younger patients, those with a family history or who have had trauma to the shoulder are more prone to developing arthritis at a younger age. When you dislocate your shoulder, this typically involves the “ball” of your upper arm bone coming out of its socket at the shoulder joint. While this can sometimes resolve on its own, many cases require a professional to put the shoulder back in its place, restoring the “ball and socket” structure. 

Once you have dislocated your shoulder once, you may be at a higher risk of dislocating it again in the future, especially if you lead an active lifestyle. If you have suffered from multiple shoulder dislocations, you may have excess wear and tear of the area, causing damage to the cartilage and loss of bone tissue. Over time, this can lead to a diagnosis of osteoarthritis, which can be painful and limit your range of motion since the bones are not able to smoothly glide within the joint.

If you suffer from severe shoulder osteoarthritis and have symptoms requiring treatment, there are a number of solutions that may be appropriate. After being evaluated by an experienced orthopaedic surgeon, you may be recommended to rest, take NSAIDs, undergo physical therapy, and/or get steroid injections. If these more conservative treatments do not provide adequate relief from your arthritis symptoms, your doctor may discuss shoulder replacement surgery with you. In these more advanced cases, the ball and socket joint is replaced with metal and plastic materials, helping to restore function and comfort.

While a dislocated shoulder does not necessarily mean you will develop osteoarthritis, it is a risk factor for the chronic condition. If you have a family history of arthritis or are more prone to dislocations, you should be careful to avoid trauma to the shoulder by taking certain precautions. This may involve being careful to avoid falls, wearing protective gear during sports, and maintaining healthy joints and muscles with exercise.