Shoulder Arthritis

Shoulder arthritis, commonly referred to as osteoarthritis, is a condition that affects the joints in your shoulder, causing pain and stiffness. It occurs when the protective cartilage covering the ends of the bones wears away. This condition can make everyday activities challenging, like lifting objects or brushing your hair.

Are you experiencing shoulder pain or stiffness due to arthritis? Consult our shoulder arthritis specialist for an accurate diagnosis & personalised treatment plan today.

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Dr Dennis Ng Zhaowen

Causes of Shoulder Arthritis

Shoulder arthritis can develop due to several factors. Understanding these causes can help manage and prevent the condition.

  • Age: As people age, the cartilage in the shoulder joint can wear down naturally over time, leading to arthritis. This is a common cause of shoulder arthritis in older adults.
  • Previous Shoulder Injuries: Injuries to the shoulder, such as fractures, dislocations, or severe sprains, can increase the risk of developing arthritis later in life. The cartilage can be damaged or change the joint’s movement, leading to wear and tear.
  • Occupational Factors: Jobs or activities that involve repetitive shoulder movements can strain the joint, leading to cartilage breakdown. Athletes who frequently use their shoulders, such as swimmers or baseball players, are often at higher risk. Occupations that require repeated overhead movements, like painting and warehouse work, might also lead to shoulder arthritis.
  • Genetic Factors: Some people may be more prone to developing shoulder arthritis due to their genes. You may be more likely to get arthritis if it runs in your family.
  • Inflammatory Conditions: Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune diseases can cause inflammation in the shoulder joint, leading to arthritis. These conditions cause the body’s immune system to attack the joint, resulting in damage.
  • Joint Abnormalities: Some people are born with joint abnormalities or develop them early in life, which can lead to arthritis in the shoulder. These abnormalities can cause uneven wear on the cartilage.

Symptoms of Shoulder Arthritis

People with shoulder arthritis may experience varying degrees of symptoms. Seeing these signs early on can help you take better care of the situation.

  • Shoulder Pain
    Pain may start as a mild ache and progressively become more intense. The pain is often felt deep in the shoulder joint and can worsen with activity or after periods of rest.
  • Joint Stiffness
    Stiffness in the shoulder joint can make it difficult to move the shoulder freely. This stiffness is often worse in the morning or after periods of inactivity. Over time, it can lead to a decreased range of motion, making everyday tasks more challenging.
  • Swelling
    Swelling around the shoulder joint can occur due to inflammation. The affected area may feel heated and sensitive, and one shoulder may be enlarged more than the other. This swelling causes pain and limits shoulder movement, making regular tasks difficult.
  • Clicking or Grinding Sensations
    As the cartilage wears down, the bones in the shoulder joint can rub against each other, causing clicking, popping, or grinding sounds during movement. This is known as crepitus and can be uncomfortable or painful.
  • Muscle Weakness
    Shoulder arthritis can lead to muscle weakness, making lifting objects or performing activities requiring shoulder strength difficult.
  • Reduced Functionality
    The combination of pain, stiffness, and weakness can reduce shoulder functionality. This can impact daily activities, including dressing, grooming, and household chores.

Diagnosis of Shoulder Arthritis

Diagnosing shoulder arthritis requires a medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests. The shoulder specialist will use these methods to diagnose and assess the disease accurately.

Medical History

The first step in diagnosing shoulder arthritis is discussing your medical history with a shoulder specialist. They will ask about your symptoms, such as the location, duration, and intensity of the pain, as well as any previous injuries to the shoulder. They may also ask about your family history of arthritis and any activities or occupations involving repetitive shoulder movements.

Physical Examination

During the physical examination, the shoulder specialist will assess your shoulder’s range of motion, strength, and visible signs of swelling or deformity. They may ask you to move your shoulder in various directions to check for pain and stiffness. Observing how the shoulder moves and feels can provide important clues about the condition.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests are required to confirm the diagnosis of shoulder arthritis and determine its severity. Common imaging tests include:

  • X-rays: X-rays can reveal changes in the bone structure of the shoulder joint, such as narrowing of the joint space, bone spurs, and other signs of cartilage loss. These images help in assessing the extent of arthritis.
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): An MRI provides detailed images of the soft tissues in the shoulder, including the cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. It can help identify inflammation, cartilage damage, and other abnormalities that may not be visible on an X-ray.
  • CT Scan (Computed Tomography): A CT scan combines multiple X-ray images to create a detailed cross-sectional view of the shoulder joint. It can help evaluate the bone structure and identify bone spurs or other abnormalities.
Joint Aspiration

In certain situations, the shoulder specialist may perform a joint aspiration, where a small amount of fluid is drawn from the shoulder joint using a needle. This fluid is then analysed for signs of inflammation, infection, or crystals indicating gout or other conditions.

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Treatment Options

Treating shoulder arthritis involves relieving pain, restoring function, and decreasing disease progression. Treatment may vary based on symptoms and the type of arthritis. The main treatments are:

Non-Surgical Treatments

Shoulder arthritis is generally treated first with non-surgical methods, including medications and injections. These treatments relieve pain, improve shoulder function, and improve quality of life.


Medications are used to manage pain and inflammation associated with shoulder arthritis. Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen can help reduce pain and discomfort. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, help reduce inflammation and pain by blocking the production of chemicals in the body that cause inflammation.


Injections are another non-surgical treatment option that can temporarily relieve pain and inflammation. Common types of injections include:

  • Corticosteroid Injections: These injections can reduce inflammation and pain in the shoulder joint. They are often used when oral medications are not effective.
  • Hyaluronic Acid Injections: These injections are sometimes used to lubricate the joint, improving movement and reducing pain. They mimic the natural lubricating fluid found in healthy joints.
Cold Therapy

Cold therapy involves the application of ice packs or cold compresses to the affected area to reduce inflammation and numb pain. This treatment helps decrease swelling and pain, providing immediate relief and improving comfort during flare-ups.

Surgical Treatments

When non-surgical treatments fail, surgery may be considered. Shoulder surgery repairs or replaces damaged elements to relieve discomfort and improve joint function. The severity of arthritis, joint damage, and health and activity level determine if surgery is recommended.

Arthroscopy Shoulder Debridement

Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to diagnose and treat problems inside the shoulder joint. During the procedure, a small camera called an arthroscope is inserted into the shoulder joint through a tiny incision. This allows the shoulder specialist to view the inside of the joint on a screen and remove loose cartilage. Arthroscopy reduces discomfort and scarring and speeds up rehabilitation, allowing patients to resume regular activities sooner. This is only suitable for early arthritis where there is some cartilage left.

Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery

This procedure involves replacing the damaged parts of the shoulder joint with artificial components. Total shoulder replacements replace the entire shoulder joint with a metal ball and plastic socket to restore function and relieve discomfort. For severe arthritis and rotator cuff degeneration, a reverse shoulder replacement may be performed, typically when the rotator cuff cannot be repaired. This treatment switches the ball and socket positions to let other muscles replace the injured rotator cuff. This surgery greatly improves shoulder stability and function.

Reverse Shoulder Arthroplasty

Reverse Shoulder Arthroplasty involves reversing the location of the ball and socket. A round metallic head is attached to the shoulder blade, and a polyethylene socket with a metal stem is attached to the humerus. This procedure is suitable when the rotator cuff is also torn.

Prevention of Shoulder Arthritis

Some methods can delay or prevent shoulder arthritis. Joint health and overall well-being can be improved by taking preventative measures.

  • Wear Protective Gear - Wear protective gear when participating in sports and avoid activities that put your shoulders at high risk of injury. If you experience shoulder pain or discomfort, seek medical attention promptly to prevent further damage. Using safety gear like helmets and elbow pads can also help lower the risk of falling and hurting your shoulder when you do activities like riding or skateboarding.
  • Engage in Physical Activity - Regular physical activity helps keep your joints flexible and strengthens the muscles around them. Engage in exercises that promote shoulder flexibility and strength, such as swimming, yoga, and gentle stretching. However, avoid high-impact activities that can cause joint injuries.
  • Practise Good Posture - Maintaining good posture can help reduce the strain on your shoulder joints. Keep your shoulders relaxed and avoid slouching, as the pressure on the shoulder joints causes pain. Use ergonomic furniture and watch your posture, especially when sitting or using a computer, to maintain shoulder health and reduce joint strain. Good posture can ease stress on the joints and improve the health of your shoulders.

Effective & Evidence-Based Orthopaedic Care

Dr. Dennis Ng is dedicated to understanding your unique needs, focusing on restoring
your active lifestyle and overall well-being.


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Our Patients' Feedback

Learn what our patients have to say about our treatments and services.

Jeremy Teo
Jeremy Teo
I tore my left pec muscle after a bench press accident and had the fortune of getting help from Dr Dennis. He is a very caring and helpful individual that you can tell wants the best healing progress for you and actively follows up with you sincerely. I initially had a two month delay and misdiagnosis at Ktph and it caused my tendon to retract. Should have went to Dr Dennis from the start.. 5/5
Emily Loo
Emily Loo
I felt that doctor Dennis is very experienced and he skilfully aligned my fractured toe after my accident so that I didn’t need to do a minor surgery. He was friendly and professional and I felt his fees were reasonable without additional overselling of tests, supplements etc. that I have experienced elsewhere. Overall it was a smooth and effective experience and I would highly recommend doctor Dennis.
Ming W
Ming W
Wonderful experience with Dr. Dennis and his team. The staff were attentive and efficient. Dr. Dennis is professional, caring and knowledgeable. I had a shoulder injury and knee injury that required surgery. The whole journey, including pre and post surgery, Dr. Dennis and his team made sure I received the best treatment possible. Really thankful for the team and I definitely will recommend this place to others.
Jermy Tan
Jermy Tan
Saw Dr Dennis for my lumbar slipped disc. Great doctor and he explained clearly the different options available. Went with surgery and have been recovering well since then.
Amanda Seah
Amanda Seah
I came in with a shoulder injury that meds from a GP did not relieve one month ago. Dr Dennis and his team were great in diagnosing the exact injury with an mri, and he prescribed physio. My shoulder condition has greatly improved and I can now move my arm almost completely! Thank you Dr Dennis!
Jaslyn HENG (Kenrick)
Jaslyn HENG (Kenrick)
A very friendly and nice doctor who manage to cure my elbow issue whjch has been bothering me for more than 6 months! Thank you Doctor Dennis!
Xianmin Jiang
Xianmin Jiang
I had severe left shoulder pain due to exercise. After MRI checking , it was shown high-grade tendon tearing. Dr Dennis did the surgery for my left should calf repair. After surgery, I strictly follow what he suggested. The recovery was really amazing and fast. I was curious about what happened to my shoulder, he explained in details and with great patience. Now, I am fully recovered in a very fast speed and come back to my loved sports and exercises. I definitely recommend Dr Dennis for his profession, patience and delicate skills. Last not the least, thank for his medical team. The nurses are always prompt to reply when I need help and message them.
Omar Lechuga
Omar Lechuga
Dr. Dennis helped me with an elbow pinch coming from a trauma. His attention to detail confidence and great empathy really helped me to fully recover. Thank you Dr. Dennis.
Benjamin Mah
Benjamin Mah
Dr Dennis has been helpful in the diagnosis and explanation of my injury

Dr Dennis Ng Zhaowen
Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre
38 Irrawaddy Road #08-41,Singapore 329563

Dr Dennis Ng Zhaowen

  • Senior Consultant Orthopaedic Specialist
MBBS (Singapore)
FRCSEdOrth (Gold Medal Award)

Before private practice, Dr Dennis Ng was the former Deputy Head of the Shoulder & Elbow Division and Sports Knee Division in National University Hospital.

He completed his fellowship at the prestigious Fowler Kennedy Sports Medicine Centre in London, Ontario, Canada, and has rich experience treating professional athletes and returning them to sports. 

Special Areas of interests include keyhole and reconstructive procedures of the shoulder and elbow. 

Common procedures include frozen shoulder release, rotator cuff repair, SLAP/Labrum repair, shoulder stabilization, tennis elbow release etc.


Our clinic is on the specialist panels of the following Health Networks/Insurance Plans, and we are happy to assist with your claims or
attend to any query you may have.

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    Visit Us Today

    Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre

    38 Irrawaddy Road #08-41
    Singapore 329563

    Monday – Friday: 9am – 1pm; 2pm – 5pm
    Saturday: 9am – 1pm
    Sunday & PH: CLOSED

    Other Clinic Location

    Gleneagles Medical Center

    6 Napier Road #07-15
    Singapore 258499

    Monday – Friday: 9am – 1pm; 2pm – 5pm
    Saturday: 9am – 1pm
    Sunday & PH: CLOSED

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    How long does recovery take after shoulder surgery?

    Recovery time varies depending on the type of surgery and personal factors. Generally, it can take several weeks to months. Physical therapy is often required to regain strength and mobility in the shoulder.

    Can shoulder arthritis affect both shoulders?

    Yes, shoulder arthritis can affect either one or both shoulders. It is more common in the dominant shoulder, but both shoulders can be affected, especially if there is a systemic condition like rheumatoid arthritis.

    What are the risks associated with shoulder surgery?

    Like any surgery, shoulder surgery carries risks, such as infection, blood clots, nerve damage, and complications from anaesthesia. Your shoulder specialist will discuss these risks with you before the procedure.

    Is shoulder arthritis more common in certain age groups?

    Shoulder arthritis is more common in older adults due to the natural wear and tear on the joints over time. However, it can also occur in younger people, especially if they have had previous shoulder injuries or certain medical conditions.

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