Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ


My mother seems to be losing her ability to move. She can't raise her arms overhead to get dressed in the morning. Do older people lose the sense of where their joints are or is this a sign of early Alzheimer's?


Joint proprioception is the sense of joint position. Proprioception tells us if the joint is flexed forward or raised overhead. Joint position sense tells the person where the joint is in relation to the body and the other joints.

Like many things, proprioception does decline with age but usually in small amounts. Most people aren't really aware of the change. Many different things can cause loss of motion. Arthritis is the number one problem in aging adults. Inactivity can lead to decreased motion and even a frozen shoulder.

Sometimes people with heart disease become breathless when their arms are raised overhead so they stop using this motion. Forgetting how to do simple tasks such as raising the arms overhead can be a part of Alzheimer's. This isn't an early sign, though. It usually happens later on as the disease progresses. If your mother doesn't have any other signs of Alzheimer's, this loss of motion is likely caused by something else.

Make an appointment with her doctor for an evaluation. Early identification and treatment of some problems can help prevent long-term complications.

Wolfgang Pötzl, MD, et al. Proprioception of the Shoulder Joint after Surgical Repair for Instability: A Long-term Follow-up Study. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. January/February 2004. Vol. 32. No. 1. Pp. 425-430.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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