What is Glenohumeral Joint Arthritis?

Posted on October 28th, 2020 by Orthopaedic Specialty Group

Arthritis, or inflammation of the joints, causes immense pain, stiffness, immobility, and may occur anywhere throughout the body and take different forms. 

Glenohumeral joint arthritis affects millions of people each year and is one of the more common forms of arthritis to develop simply from wear and tear and aging, although it’s one of the lesser known types.

What is Glenohumeral Joint Arthritis?

This form of arthritis is caused by the destruction and wear of the cartilage layers in the glenohumeral joint, also called the shoulder joint. When the cartilage gets worn down, this creates bone-on-bone contact, which encourages the production of osteophytes or bone spurs. The increased friction between the humerus bone and glenoid cavity and the development of osteophytes causes the shoulder to move more uncomfortably, painfully, and less smoothly. 

There are a number of conditions that can lead to the breakdown of cartilage:

  • Natural wear and tear over time
  • Fracture or dislocation
  • Infections
  • Chronic inflammatory conditions
  • Osteonecrosis, bone death caused by blood supply loss
  • Chronic rotator cuff tears
  • Rare metabolic and congenital conditions
  • Post-surgical complications

Signs and Symptoms

These are the signs to look out for when it comes to glenohumeral joint arthritis:

  • Shoulder pain, especially when moving
  • Loss of motion and stiffness
  • Atrophy, or wasting away of the shoulder muscle due to disuse
  • Swelling and inflammation
  • Clicking or crunching sounds during shoulder motion
  • Tenderness at the touch

If these signs don’t go away and worsen over time, it’s crucial to consult with your doctor or a specialist to ensure that the arthritis doesn’t worsen and cause other problems. 


You can do things to both prevent the cartilage from wearing down more and treat the symptoms and arthritis itself. Here are some at home steps you can take to better care for your glenohumeral joints:

  • Modify your activity – Avoid movements that will aggravate the shoulder, such as heavy weight lifting, kayaking, etc.
  • Rest – A little discomfort in the morning or when starting exercise is normal, but intense pain is not. Give the joint lots of rest and minimize movements if you notice moderate pain or discomfort.
  • Warm and cold compresses – Applying heat can help loosen up the shoulder joint, while a cold compress can decrease swelling and pain.

Your doctor may suggest one of these treatment courses to help with your glenohumeral joint arthritis:

  • Physical therapy – This therapy can help strengthen and stretch the supporting muscles in your shoulder to reduce pain, stiffness and improve your range of motion.
  • Medications – There is a wide range of over-the-counter medicines, oral and or topical medications to help treat and improve your symptoms.
  • Injections – These could be steroid or hyaluronic acid injections that can help alleviate symptoms and provide lubrication in between the bones.
  • Surgery – Depending on the severity, surgery as a treatment course may be ideal or necessary.

Orthopaedist in Fairfield County

If you have any of the above-listed symptoms or suspect you have an injury or are in pain, give the Orthopaedic Specialty group a call at (203) 337-2600 and let us know how we can help you! 

Don’t let that pain hold you back from living your life.