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Arthritis of the Arms & Shoulders: What Are the Symptoms?

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms

According to the NHS, around ten million Britons are living with arthritis, making it one of the most prevalent disabilities in the UK. There are several different types varying in symptoms and severity, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. Many of these are common in senior citizens. They can all have a devastating impact on patients without effective treatment plans.

Although any body part can be affected, from the small bones in the ankles to the big ball and socket joint of the hip, pain often begins in the upper extremities. Keep reading as we explain everything you need to know about arthritis in the arms and shoulders, including what symptoms to watch out for.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is an umbrella term encompassing many conditions. Although the causes and symptoms vary, most can be characterised by joint pain and inflammation.

Sometimes, bone rubs on bone as smooth cartilage and synovial fluid (a thick gel-like substance that cushions joints) breaks down. Other times, the immune system mistakes the body for a foreign invader and attacks healthy cells. Many kinds of arthritis are common in elderly people. Some of the most common types of arthritis include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gout
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Cervical spondylosis
  • Lupus

Six symptoms of arthritis in the arms and shoulders

If you have arthritis in the arm or shoulder, you've probably noticed some very specific symptoms. You might find it harder to grip objects and bend your elbow, which can be especially stressful if you work with your hands. Perhaps, you don't have the same range of motion or hear grinding whenever you change positions.

Either way, understanding your symptoms can help you manage them – paired with expert support from a fall alarm for the elderly. Our personal safety pendants detect emergencies and immediately alert a skilled operator, family member or friend.

Stiffness around the shoulder joint and upper arm

Stiffness and reduced range of motion are often the first signs of arm arthritis. The protective cartilage covering the shoulder and elbow joints deteriorates and thins, causing the underlying bone to overcompensate and become thicker. This sudden growth stops the joints from working properly. Instead of effortlessly sliding over one another, they grind and crunch.

Unless you have an autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia, this is usually caused by age-related wear and tear. However, you can mitigate the worst symptoms through exercise, medication and surgery.

Pain that gradually gets worse

It can be tricky to differentiate between pain. Does your arm hurt because of arthritis or another injury or condition? Shoulder rotator cuff tears and exercise-related soreness are equally common, so it's easy to get confused.

As a rule, arthritic pain gradually gets worse, especially after a period of inactivity. It doesn't always respond to medication – at least not in a meaningful, long-term way – and usually radiates from one point outwards. Noticing the quality of pain is also helpful. You'll probably feel a hot, burning, bone-deep sensation that makes it difficult to complete everyday tasks.

Struggling to move about? It might be time to invest in a digital safety alarm. No matter where you are, professional and friendly support is only the touch of a button away.

Grinding, clicking or cracking

Nobody's quite sure why bones click in the general population, but the reason becomes more obvious with arthritic shoulders, arms and elbows. Since the surface of the cartilage is rough, the joints often pop and grate as they move into place.

Normally, cracking doesn't hurt, but it can cause severe pain in arthritis patients – it all depends on the rate of progression.

Tenderness to touch

Most forms of arthritis in the arms are inflammatory conditions, meaning the joint and surrounding areas become swollen, red and tender to the touch. You might even feel firm, lemon-sized lumps underneath the skin called rheumatoid nodules.

Weakness and poor grip

As you can imagine, completing basic tasks is challenging when the joints aren't working properly. You might struggle to pick things up and hold objects, like television remotes, cutlery or shopping bags. Plus, many people report a much weaker grip, which can prevent some from working. Thankfully, you can claim financial support for arthritis, provided you have proof of diagnosis.

Mood disorders

Many articles focus on the physical shoulder and elbow arthritis symptoms, but there's a wealth of emotional side effects too. Sufferers frequently experience depression and anxiety as they learn how to live with the condition. Some people lose their appetite and feel exhausted, which is unsurprising as arthritic pain can infiltrate every bone, joint and muscle.

Feeling worried about the future? Book an appointment with your GP. They'll often prescribe talking therapies to help you cope with the changes in your body.

What does arthritis in the shoulder feel like?

As mentioned, arthritis in the shoulder and upper limbs usually feels hot and burning. Unlike muscular pain, which is crampy, you might notice sharp, shooting sensations as the joints rub and struggle to slide into place. The severity of pain depends on the type of arthritis, speed of deterioration and your tolerance levels.

Is there a cure for arthritis in the arms and shoulders for elderly people?

Unfortunately, shoulder and arm arthritis is a chronic condition that gets worse over time. As such, there's no cure. Nevertheless, it's entirely possible to manage your symptoms, so you can live a happy, healthy life. The earlier you catch the disease, the better the outcome. Treatments vary, but you might be prescribed:

  • Pain relief and anti-inflammatory medications
  • Heat and cold therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Physical therapy and regular exercise
  • Joint replacement surgery
  • Steroid injections

Live independently with a SureSafe Alarm

Living with arm arthritis isn't impossible – not when you have a Suresafe Alarm. Our comprehensive range of high-tech, industry-leading safety pendants will give you the confidence to live independently. There are countless clever features to choose from, including fall detection, GPS tracking and 24/7 monitoring to suit every circumstance and budget.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team on 0800 112 3201. Otherwise, request a call back or use our live chat.

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