Would physical therapy for shoulder arthritis help pain and immobility?

Tamar Amitay
Physical Therapy

Yes, physical therapy has been shown to reduce inflammation and pain associated with arthritis. In addition, patients can also expect to regain mobility, and flexibility.

Shoulder Arthritis is due to an abnormal wearing down of the cartilage that covers the bone (Osteoarthritis) or can be due to the destruction of the joint because of an autoimmune inflammatory process (Rheumatoid arthritis) or as a result of trauma to the joint (traumatic arthritis). The result is generalized pain, stiffness, inflammation, pain with movement, muscle weakness and abnormal movement of the arm as a compensation. Before physical therapy a physical exam and an X-ray to determine the extent of arthritic change should be performed to determine what the correct physical therapy intervention will be. The physical exam will look at muscle strength, what the passive (performed by the therapist) and active (the patient performs) motions are, postural changes, compensatory movement patterns, and flexibility of muscles and joint play of the shoulder. The X-rays will look at bony changes of the shoulder, i.e. narrowing or destruction of joints, and for formation of bone spurs/osteophytes.

In addition, your physical therapist will prescribe the proper exercises to improve the strength and tone of the rotator cuff and muscles around the shoulder joint to decrease the stress to the arthritic joint and improve the functional use of one’s shoulder. The therapist may use modalities such as heat, ice, ultrasound and electrical stimulation, as well as employ manual therapy such as joint mobilization, therapeutic massage, and gentle stretching to help regain pain-free shoulder function. Upon regaining range of motion (“ROM”) and strength, the therapist will reeducate the patient in proper arm movement and the patient will also perform exercises at home to both maintain and progress gains attained in physical therapy.

Continue Learning about Arthritis Treatment

Arthritis Treatment

Arthritis Treatment

Arthritis treatment is based on the severity of symptoms and location of the joint inflammation. Oral medications and topical creams can help relieve joint pain. Physical therapy and activity modification can improve flexibility a...

nd joint health. Your doctor may recommend diet changes to eliminate foods that increase inflammation. Although there is no cure for most types of arthritis, early diagnosis and proper management are important, particularly for inflammatory types of arthritis.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.