Is shoulder arthritis getting you down? Does it feel like your only options are either a shoulder replacement, or to just deal with the pain?
He came in with what felt like a death sentence: severe degeneration in both shoulder joints, per a recent X-ray. He had just learned that this was likely responsible for the constant ache in both of his shoulders, and difficulty sleeping on either side.
“My doctor said it’s bone-on-bone. I’ll probably just need a replacement soon.”
Does this sound familiar?
The phrase “bone-on-bone” is used so often to describe x-ray images of shoulder arthritis. Put that way, we don’t find it all that helpful. It makes it sound like your bones are literally just crunching and grinding together, ready to crack at any time. That doesn’t really encourage you to continue using your arm, or give you even the slightest amount of hope that it can improve without surgery. But we’re here to tell you that you CAN actually improve your shoulder despite a diagnosis of arthritis.
Sure, you may have some changes in your joint that make it look different than a 15-year-old’s shoulder on an x-ray image. But shoulder arthritis doesn’t necessarily mean that your shoulder can’t function better with just a little bit of work!
Now back to Kurt. He has lifted weights nearly his entire life, and continues to enjoy doing that to stay healthy and relieve stress. He played football in high school, various intramural sports in college, and is now part of a social softball league. He’s noticed his throwing has suffered a bit with this irritating shoulder pain. Kurt’s kids are both out of college and working, and his daughter recently got married.
“I’d like to continue playing softball, but mainly I just want to be able to lift and play with my grandkids, so I can be a part of their lives at every stage.”
To reach this goal, we collaborated on a plan of action including some hands-on work and a home program of stretching and specific exercises. Within a few weeks, Kurt was sleeping better, allowing him to feel more awake and engaged throughout the day. He also started gaining shoulder movement and lifting heavier weights without any flare-ups of his shoulder pain.
Spoiler alert: Kurt is now playing softball, lifting weights and anticipating grand kiddos in the near future!
Shoulder arthritis can be a scary diagnosis, but altering your movement mechanics and adding specific exercises to your routine can be a game-changer. Surgery is definitely a viable option for certain cases, but know that having arthritis doesn’t always make it necessary. Small changes will make a huge difference in getting you back to your life without pills or surgery. If your ability to keep up with your family, friends and workouts has been changed by shoulder arthritis, we’d love to learn more and find out if we can help.