Non-Surgical Treatment for Shoulder Arthritis: A Minimally Invasive Option

Shoulder arthritis is a type of osteoarthritis affecting the shoulder joint, causing pain, inflammation, stiffness, and limited mobility. The symptoms of shoulder arthritis include difficulty with everyday tasks, such as lifting heavy items or performing physically intensive activities.

Although there is no cure for shoulder arthritis, non-surgical treatment options can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life to a certain extent. These options include physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroid injections, and lifestyle modifications like weight loss and exercise. Surgery is also an option but carries higher risks. 

That said, the non-surgical treatment options are prevalent among patients and don’t carry the risks associated with the surgical treatments. Let’s discuss these treatment options in detail below.

What are the Non-surgical Treatment Options for Shoulder Arthritis?

  • Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy for shoulder arthritis typically involves a series of exercises and stretches designed to improve the function and mobility of the affected joint. 

Strength training is also an essential component of physical therapy for shoulder arthritis. It may involve using weights or resistance bands for strengthening the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint and improving overall joint stability.

  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications

These medications are effective enough to help treat shoulder arthritis. These medications, also known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can help reduce pain and inflammation in the shoulder joint. 

Besides NSAIDs, other medications such as analgesics, corticosteroids, and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are also prescribed to help manage shoulder arthritis. Analgesics, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), relieve pain from other shoulder problems or surgery. 

  • Corticosteroid Injections

Corticosteroid injections are a safe and effective way to reduce inflammation and pain in the shoulder joint caused by Arthritis. These injections are typically injected into the joint using a spinal needle and a small amount of local anaesthetic. 

  • Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Injections

PRP injections involve drawing a small amount of the patient’s blood, which is then processed to isolate and concentrate the platelets. These platelets contain growth factors that stimulate tissue repair and regeneration. The concentrated platelets are then injected into the affected joint, where they work to reduce inflammation and promote healing.

  • Hyaluronic Acid Injections

Hyaluronic acid injections are a safe and effective way to treat shoulder arthritis. This Arthritis in shoulder treatment involves injecting a gel-like substance into the affected joint that mimics the natural fluid found in the body. This fluid, known as synovial fluid, acts as a lubricant and shock absorber for the joint.

What are the Minimally Invasive Treatment Options for Shoulder Arthritis?

  • Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a minimally invasive procedure that relieves those suffering from shoulder arthritis.

RFA works by using a small probe to deliver heat to the nerves that are causing the pain. This heat destroys the nerves, which prevents them from sending pain signals to the brain. The procedure is quick, usually taking no more than 30 minutes, and is done on an outpatient basis.

One of the biggest advantages of RFA is that it provides long-lasting relief. Unlike medications that only provide temporary relief and often have unwanted side effects, RFA can provide relief for up to a year or more. And because it is minimally invasive, there is minimal downtime and recovery time.

  • Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a process that operates itself by stimulating the body’s natural healing mechanisms. When the needles are inserted into the skin, they activate the nervous system and trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. This can help to reduce pain and inflammation in the shoulder joint.

One of the benefits of acupuncture is that it is a safe and non-invasive arthritis-in-shoulder treatment option. Unlike surgery or medication, it does not have any significant side effects or risks associated with it. It is also cost-effective, not requiring expensive equipment or ongoing medication.

  • Shockwave Therapy

Shockwave therapy involves the use of high-energy sound waves that are directed at the affected area. These sound waves stimulate the body’s natural healing processes, promoting the growth of new blood vessels and increasing collagen production. This helps to reduce pain and inflammation, as well as improve joint mobility and function.

In the case of shoulder arthritis, shockwave therapy can be particularly effective. Arthritis is when the cartilage that cushions the joints begins to break down. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. By promoting the growth of new blood vessels and collagen, shockwave therapy can help to improve the health of the joint and reduce these symptoms.

  • Prolotherapy

Prolotherapy is a non-surgical treatment for shoulder arthritis that has been gaining popularity in recent years for treating shoulder arthritis. It involves the injection of a solution made up of natural substances, such as dextrose or saline, into the affected area to stimulate the body’s natural healing process. 

Unlike pain medications, which only provide temporary relief, prolotherapy promotes the body’s natural healing process by stimulating the growth of new tissue and strengthening the ligaments and tendons in the affected area. This reduces pain and inflammation and improves mobility and range of motion.

  • Laser Therapy

Laser therapy is an excellent option for those suffering from shoulder arthritis. This arthritis in shoulder treatment is non-invasive, painless, and has been proven effective in reducing pain and increasing mobility. By using specific wavelengths of light, laser therapy can penetrate deep into the tissues of the shoulder joint, promoting healing and reducing inflammation.

One of the key benefits of laser therapy is its ability to stimulate cell growth and repair. This can be especially beneficial for those suffering from Arthritis, as it can help to strengthen the cartilage and surrounding tissues in the joint. In addition, laser therapy can also help to increase blood flow to the affected area, which can promote healing and reduce pain.

What are the Effectiveness and Limitations of Non-Surgical and Minimally Invasive Treatments?

The first treatment for shoulder arthritis is non-surgical. This includes physical therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and corticosteroid injections. Physical therapy can help improve shoulder strength and flexibility, while NSAIDs can help reduce inflammation and pain. 

Corticosteroid injections can temporarily relieve pain by reducing shoulder joint inflammation. However, these treatments for shoulder arthritis do not provide a permanent solution and may have side effects such as gastric ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding, and increased risk of infection.

The second treatment for shoulder arthritis is surgery. Two surgical procedures are available for shoulder arthritis: arthroscopy and arthroplasty. Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that involves cleaning up the joint and removing any loose tissue or bone spurs that may be causing pain. Arthroplasty, on the other hand, involves replacing the entire shoulder joint with a prosthetic joint. Both procedures have their benefits and risks.

Arthroscopy is less invasive than arthroplasty and has a shorter recovery time. It can relieve pain and improve shoulder function, but it may not be suitable for advanced cases of shoulder arthritis. Arthroplasty, on the other hand, can provide a permanent solution to shoulder arthritis and can significantly improve shoulder function. However, it is a major surgery with risks like infection, blood clots, and nerve damage.


Non-surgical treatment for shoulder arthritis can be a viable option for those looking to manage their pain and improve their range of motion. From physical therapy to injections, there are a variety of options available that can be tailored to the individual patient’s needs. 

It’s essential to work closely with a healthcare professional to determine the best course of treatment for your specific case. However, with proper care and attention, non-surgical treatment for shoulder arthritis can provide significant relief and improve the overall quality of life.

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