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Managing Shoulder Arthritis

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  • Heat and cold can be used for short term pain relief.  Try both to see which works best for you.  Applying warm or cold packs on your shoulder for 15-20 minutes may help.  Place a dry layer between your skin and the warm or cold pack.  Check your skin every few minutes to make sure you do not burn yourself.
  • Pain medication such as Tylenol Arthritis® used in combination with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) can be effective.  The anti-inflammatory can be an ointment, such as Voltaren® or Diclofenac cream, or an oral over the counter medication such as Ibuprofen® or Aleve®. Check with your doctor first to ensure that the pain medication is right for you if you have other medical conditions.  Prescription medication
    may also be an option.
  • Some patients have reported doing pendular exercise throughout the day and night helps reduce pain.  Try to see if it works for you.  
  • In sitting, use an arm rest or place a pillow under your elbow to support your arm.  Make sure you are not reaching down to the arm rest or propping it too high that your shoulder is pushed up toward your ear.  You may also feel more comfortable with support under your elbow
    while driving.
  • When lying on your back, place a pillow or folded towel under your elbow and upper arm to keep it level or above the midline of your body.
    You may also find having the pillow placed under and between your arm and chest more comfortable.
  • Many people find it very uncomfortable or painful to lie on the affected/painful side.
  • When lying on your good side, you may want to place a large pillow in front of you to “hug” and support your arm from dropping across the
    front of your body or place a pillow between your elbow and side.
  • In extreme cases of night pain some patients have found it helpful to sleep in a more upright position such as a recliner or propped up on pillows
    in a slightly reclined sitting position.  Make sure to support behind your elbow so your elbow doesn’t fall back behind the midline of your body.
  • Keep all arm and hand movement in front of your body.  Do not reach behind you with your hand such as reaching into the back
    seat of your vehicle.  Support your arm so your elbow and hand are always in line with or in front of your shoulder.
  • Minimize prolonged positions or repetitive activities at or above shoulder height.
  • Avoid heavy lifting, pushing or pulling with the affected arm.
  • Keep anything of weight or load close to your body.  Do not reach out beyond this distance.
  • Keep good posture!This will help your shoulder range of motion especially when lifting your arms above shoulder height.
  • Range of motion exercises can be done with pulleys, using a stick or cane or your good arm to assist moving your affected
    arm. Do not push past the point where your shoulder wants to stop moving.
  • When moving your arm/shoulder, ensure you do not shrug your shoulder toward your ear.  Keep your shoulder down when
    lifting your arm up.  This will minimize neck related issues and stress on the rotator cuff tendons.
  • When working on shoulder strength your exercises should be painfree.  If they are not, a physical therapist can show you
    isometric exercises to contract and strengthen your muscles without moving your shoulder joint.
  • You should avoid weight bearing exercises through your arms.  Eg. push ups or plank exercises.
  • The general rule is IF IT HURTS DON’T DO IT.  Stop or reduce activities that make your shoulder sore.

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