Degenerative Joint Disease of the Shoulder

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The shoulder joints, mainly stabilized by tendons and ligaments, are the most mobile joints in the human body. As a result, they are particularly prone to injury as well as wear and tear.

Shoulder disorders are often caused by overexertion and wear and tear of the shoulder joints; More rarely, they results from sports injuries. The consequences are pain with functional and movement limitations.

With proven measures, you can reduce the risk of shoulder joint disorder or delay its consequences:

  • Whenever possible, avoid physical work involving heavy lifting.

  • With shoulder joint disorders due to wear and tear or excessive strain on ligaments, tendons and cartilage, it makes sense to do sports that do not burden your shoulders unilaterally. Warm up thoroughly, relax, and stretch. Physiotherapists can give you very good instructions in this regard.

  • In the event of shoulder discomfort, choose sports with as few arm movements above head height as possible (e.g. swimming, jogging, walking). Sports such as tennis, handball or athletics are, therefore, less suitable.

  • In comparison with hip and knee joints, shoulder joints are only slightly affected by overweight. Nevertheless, a normal weight and a healthy diet have a positive effect on the shoulder joints, in terms of flexibility and range of motion.

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Order our free exercise program for strength and balance.
(Available in German, French and Italian)
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Finding the cause of shoulder pain is often not easy. Soft tissue problems of tendons, ligaments and bursae in the shoulder area are more common than wear and tear on the joints (osteoarthritis). In the evaluation, your medical history (anamnesis), the discussion, and the examination of the shoulder joints are paramount. In addition, imaging procedures such as X-rays, ultrasound and, in justified cases, an MRI, can be conducted.

Often, shoulder pain can be successfully treated by means of a conservative treatment, i.e. with targeted physiotherapy (mobility, strengthening, physical measures) or infiltration (anti-inflammatory, analgesic injections).

  • Staying as active as possible despite osteoarthritis is good for the joints. Studies show that regular and consistent strength and flexibility exercises can relieve shoulder pain and improve joint function.

  • Hyaluronic acid injections for pain relief in arthritic shoulder pain are controversial. The clinical experience is not sufficiently documented by high-quality study data.

  • Living with a chronic illness requires very good self-management in order to be able to successfully master the various challenges in everyday life. Our Chronic Care Coaching can support you in doing so.

  • To prevent the pain from intensifying, be cautious when moving and avoid jerky movements. Have a physiotherapist instruct you on how to perform effective movement exercises.

For medicinal therapies, we recommend that you use generic medicines instead of original preparations: They are just as effective and will allow you to save money thanks to their lower retention fee. In order to find generics, use our search function. You can also ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Your guides:

Further information:

Generic medicine: search function
(available in German, French and Italian)

Medication brochure 
to print out (PDF)
(available in German and French)

Do you regularly experience shoulder pain?

Are your shoulder joints less mobile than before? And this, despite measures such as pain relievers, physiotherapy, vigorous exercise training, and possibly even a cortisone injection? If so, you should have your symptoms clarified in detail by a specialist and possibly consider an operation.

However, if or when an operation should take place depends on several factors: the diagnosis, the extent of the disorder, your age, side-effects and conservative measures already taken. For example, if there is structural damage to tissue, an operation is recommended to avoid consequential damage. Think about what you expect from an operation and discuss your goals with your doctor. He or she will be able to tell you if they can be achieved and will explain to you the benefits, risks, and alternatives.

Do you need surgery?

CONCORDIA has commissioned the institute B,B,S. Economic Consultants in Basel to evaluate the interventions in regard to shoulder joints in all Swiss acute care hospitals – independently, neutrally, and according to statistical quality criteria.

The quality of inpatient treatment was assessed, along with the length of stay and the hospital costs. 

  • During a personal conversation, we will show you, on the basis of the results, which hospitals throughout Switzerland have excelled over the years in the treatments and operations on the shoulder joint in terms of quality and efficiency.

  • Use our consulting offer to find out which hospital is most suitable for your treatment.

  • Naturally, you still have the choice of when and where you would like to be treated, in line with your basic and supplementary insurances.

If you are unsure about whether the operation is necessary, you can seek an independent and neutral second medical opinion. In almost 50 % of the cases, the second opinion doctor arrives at a therapy recommendation which is different from the first doctor treating you. If you are covered by a hospital insurance at CONCORDIA, a second medical opinion is free of charge if you apply for it via the Lucerne Cantonal Hospital (LUKS).

Personal consultation:
+41 41 228 09 94

Advice on hospital choice

 Advice on a second opinion

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The healing process after a shoulder operation often takes longer than expected by patients until tissue structures are sufficiently healed.

A conscientious outpatient rehabilitation with intensive physiotherapy is necessary to achieve optimal results in terms of mobility, muscle building and functionality of the joints.

  • Will you wear a shoulder sling or brace for some time after leaving the hospital? Have the nursing or physiotherapy staff instruct you and your family members so that you can wear it properly at home.

  • Plan your appointments for outpatient physiotherapy so that you have enough time to go back and forth relaxed. Think about how best to get there, find out about public transport connections, or ask family members if they can drive you.

  • You can save on costs if you choose generics and purchase your medication via a mail order pharmacy. In addition, it is worthwhile to purchase larger packaging units for a long-term or permanent treatment.

  • Use our helpful guides if you find it difficult – due to poor eyesight, shaky hands, or forgetfulness, for example – to take your medications.

Your guides:

Further information:

Medication brochure 
to print out (PDF)
(available in German and French)
Invoicing of benefits and benefit check

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