What to Do When Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects Your Shoulders

What to Do When Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects Your Shoulders

If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you can suffer from distressing symptoms of pain, stiffness, and inflammation in locations around your body due to a harmful autoimmune response. 

With this condition, the immune system reacts to your joints and tissues as if they were harmful invaders, attacking your own body.

RA most commonly affects the wrists, hands, and knees, but it can become an issue in other joints as well. If RA develops in your shoulder joints, Dr. Michael L. Blackwell and the team at the Center for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine of Tomball, Kingwood, and The Woodlands, Texas, are here to help, up to and including surgical shoulder replacement.

Understanding rheumatoid arthritis

Some forms of arthritis are degenerative, and result from wear-and-tear. RA is not degenerative, however. 

Instead, it’s what is known as inflammatory arthritis. Autoimmune attacks result in an inflammatory response, causing pain in the affected joints. Attacks can come and go, with periods of remission between flare-ups. We’re still learning about the exact causes of RA.

Over time, RA can cause damage in your joints, as bone cartilage wears away. RA symptoms are characteristically symmetrical, meaning that you feel pain and stiffness in both of your shoulders, hands, or whatever joint is affected.

RA symptoms in your shoulders

If you have RA in your shoulders, your most likely symptoms are pain and stiffness. Pain may seem to come from deep in your shoulder joint, or radiate upward into your neck. Tenderness and swelling are also common RA symptoms in your shoulders. 

As RA progresses, your shoulder joints may become deformed or immobilized.

RA in your shoulders can also result in symptoms that aren’t specific to that location. You may experience fatigue, fever, weakness, or loss of appetite due to RA.

Treating rheumatoid arthritis in your shoulders

You need to get RA treated in a timely fashion no matter what part of your body has the inflammation. Without the right treatment, your joints can deteriorate totally, leaving you functionally impaired.

Some patients with RA benefit from nonsurgical treatment options like specialized physical therapy exercises, targeted injections, heat or cold therapy, or medication management.

Depending on the extent of RA-related issues in your shoulder joints, Dr. Blackwell may recommend surgical shoulder replacement. 

The Center for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine offers both partial and total joint surgery replacement procedures. We use minimally invasive methods whenever possible to keep your recovery time as short as possible.

Dr. Blackwell determines your RA diagnosis with a physical exam, as well as diagnostic exams like X-rays. He can also use a steroid injection into your shoulder joint to confirm your diagnosis and to offer short-term relief.

For effective treatment of rheumatoid arthritis in your shoulders, contact Dr. Blackwell at The Center for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. Book your consultation appointment online or over the phone today.

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