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Arthritis information

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Shoulder pain

Shoulder pain is a very common problem but it’s not usually a sign of arthritis or any other underlying medical condition. We give details on causes, treatments and self-help tips.

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How does the shoulder work?

The main shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket joint, which allows a very wide range of movement. There’s also a smaller joint where the top of the shoulder blade meets the collarbone.

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Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis)

A 'frozen' shoulder or adhesive capsulitis can cause severe pain and prevent you moving your shoulder.

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Shoulder and elbow replacement

Shoulder or elbow joint replacement involve the surfaces of the joint being replaced with parts made of metal and plastic. This operation is sometimes called arthroplasty.

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Exercises to manage shoulder pain

Exercises to stretch, strengthen and stabilise the structures that support your shoulders.

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Examination of the shoulder

How to assess the joints of the shoulder

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Shoulder scans

8 video clips demonstrating ultrasound scans of the shoulder joint

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Examination of the shoulder video

A short video demonstrating assessment of the shoulder joints

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Double whammy for steroid injections in shoulder pain

We have previously reported that local steroid injections appear to offer only short-term pain relief in tennis elbow and in the longer term are inferior to physiotherapy interventions. It now seems that the benefits are not extensive in shoulder pain either.

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Shoulder ultrasound training video

Video clip published in conjunction with Topical Reviews Summer 2011

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What treatments are there for shoulder pain?

The shoulder is very prone to problems relating to muscle weakness or imbalance, which happens very quickly in a painful joint. Poor muscle control leads to instability and pain...

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Specific shoulder problems

Shoulder pain may be caused by inflammation of tendons, tears to the muscles or a problem in the neck (referred pain), but may also be related to arthritis or other, more generalised inflammatory conditions.

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Do I need a shoulder or elbow joint replacement?

You may need a joint replacement if your pain can't be reduced by treatments such as drugs, injections and physiotherapy; and it's affecting your quality of life. Surgery can be carried out to repair fractures close to joints.

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What are the possible advantages of shoulder or elbow replacement?

Shoulder or elbow joint replacement can lead to reduced joint pain, improved range of movement and a better quality of life. It may be several months before you notice the full benefits of the surgery.

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What are the possible disadvantages of shoulder or elbow replacement?

A replacement joint will never be as good as a normally-functioning natural joint; and will have less range of movement. It will wear out over time, but will likely last for at least 10 years.

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What are the alternatives to shoulder or elbow joint replacement?

Surgery will only be considered if other treatments haven't relieved your pain. There may also be less invasive surgical options, which might be more suitable than joint replacement.

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What are the different types of shoulder and elbow joint replacement?

There are several types of shoulder and elbow joint replacements. Discuss your options with your healthcare professionals.

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How should I prepare for shoulder or elbow replacement?

Being well prepared for your surgery will help you mentally, and help to ensure things go smoothly. Make sure you get answers to key questions from your hospital team before-hand.

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What will my recovery from shoulder or elbow replacement involve?

Immediately after your operation you'll be given some form of painkiller and have any drips and drains removed. Your recovery will also involve some physiotherapy and occupational therapy. Most people are able to leave hospital within 2–3 days.

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Looking after your new shoulder or elbow joint

After an elbow replacement or a total shoulder replacement, you should avoid lifting heavy loads to help make your new joint last.

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For more information, go to or call 0300 790 0400 to order the complete printed booklet.
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