(630) 646-7000

Shoulder Osteoarthritis

What is shoulder osteoarthritis?

Shoulder osteoarthritis is when the cartilage in the shoulder joint deteriorates. This type of arthritis can occur at the acromioclavicular (AC) joint or the glenohumeral joint (where the shoulder sits in the socket). Often this is referred to as degenerative joint disease, or gradual “wear and tear” of the cartilage of the shoulder. This process is similar to a tire wearing away tread over time. If the wear continues to progress, the tire will eventually lose all of the tread and become bald. In the shoulder joint, the tread is cartilage. When glenohumeral joint osteoarthritis progresses the humeral head (top of the shoulder bone) can lose all of its cartilage. This can be painful and often limits function.

Grashey (Frontal) and Axillary (Lateral) Views of a normal shoulder with comparison X-rays of an arthritic shoulder.

What are the symptoms of shoulder osteoarthritis?

The main symptom of shoulder osteoarthritis is pain. Often this is worse when moving the shoulder. Pain typically worsens as the day progresses. Additionally, patients may experience a limited range of motion and grinding. Patients often experience a “deep aching pain” in the shoulder.

How is this diagnosed?

Dr. Zahab Ahsan and Sincer Jacob have extensive experience in diagnosing shoulder osteoarthritis. You can expect to have a physical examination, x-rays, and possibly an MRI and/or CT scan if indicated for surgical planning.

What is the treatment?

There is no cure for shoulder osteoarthritis, however, Dr. Zahab Ahsan and Sincer Jacob are experienced in providing treatment options that help with your symptoms (limited function, pain, etc.). We think broadly in our approach (non-surgical vs. surgical).


A customized treatment plan will likely include anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroid injections, and a physical therapy program. The combination of these items leads to a decrease in pain and increased function in many cases. Biological injections such as PRP or stem cells may also be considered.


In more severe cases, a customized surgical approach may be recommended by Dr. Zahab Ahsan and Sincer Jacob. This decision is reached based on patient goals, and the extent of disease. Dr. Zahab Ahsan may perform arthroscopy to clear out the inside of the joint. The surgery includes small incisions, a camera, and special surgical instruments resulting in a less-invasive surgery and an accelerated recovery time. This can help with pain and range of motion but will not remove arthritis itself. For advanced arthritis, an arthroplasty, or joint replacement may be considered. The head of the shoulder bone is replaced with an artificial “ball” and the glenoid socket is also replaced. Surgery results are most effective and successful when patients follow a rehabilitation protocol provided by our team. There are two main types of shoulder replacements; anatomic shoulder replacement, which relies on an intact rotator cuff and reverse shoulder replacement which is dependent on the deltoid muscle.

Patient Story

Anatomic Total Shoulder Replacement

If you have any questions regarding shoulder osteoarthritis please contact Dr. Zahab Ahsan or Sincer Jacob.

At a Glance

Dr. Zahab Ahsan

  • Board Certified & Fellowship-Trained Orthopedic Surgeon
  • Former Assistant Team Physician for the NY Knicks
  • Castle Connolly Top Doctor
  • Team Physician for Chicago Fire FC
  • Learn more
End of content dots