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Glenohumeral Osteoarthritis: Literature Summary

The glenohumeral joint is essentially our shoulder joint. Glenohumeral osteoarthritis (GHOA), also simply known as shoulder OA, is defined as progressive loss/degeneration of articular cartilage in the shoulder joint. This results in bony erosion, pain, presence of osteophytes (unnecessary bone formation), and decreased shoulder functions.

To this date, the cause of GHOA is incompletely understood by researchers, but it is believed a combination of biomechanical and biochemical processes contribute to this disease.

Various factors such as age greater than 50, repetitive motion injuries due to shoulder overuse, obesity, engaging in sports or occupations that involve excessive overhead movements might pose a higher risk of developing shoulder OA. Shoulder OA is also more common in women than men.

There are four main characteristics clinicians look for when diagnosing shoulder OA, including: 1) limitations in shoulder movements; 2) narrowing of joint space; 3) the presence of humeral head osteophytes; 4) the absence of rotator cuff tear.

In addition, it is critical to differentiate shoulder OA from other shoulder pathologies such as rotator cuff tears, shoulder impingement syndrome, and adhesive capsulitis, as the treatment is vastly different for each disease. Since structural changes is a common presentation in shoulder OA, medical imaging such as x-ray is the best way to diagnosis this disease.

Overtime, GHOA will result in worsening pain and stiffness, leading to functional limitations and decreased quality of life, particularly in overhead activity and in shoulder external rotation. To counteract this, Physiotherapy and exercise therapy are great ways to manage the signs and symptoms of GHOA. The goals of therapy are to reduce pain, improve range of motion of the shoulder, strengthen the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint, and improve performance of activities of daily living. Exercise regimens that focus on stretching and minimal joint impact are also strongly recommended.


The post is not supposed to replace any medical advice. If you are experiencing any pain, please consult a therapist as soon as possible. You may contact us or make an appointment at 905-771-8882 or, we are more than happy to help!


Macías-Hernández, S. I., Morones-Alba, J. D., Miranda-Duarte, A., Coronado-Zarco, R., Soria-Bastida, M. D. L. A., Nava-Bringas, T., ... & Palencia, C. (2017). Glenohumeral osteoarthritis: overview, therapy, and rehabilitation. Disability and rehabilitation, 39(16), 1674-1682.

Ansok, C. B., & Muh, S. J. (2018). Optimal management of glenohumeral osteoarthritis. Orthopedic research and reviews, 10, 9.

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