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What’s up with this noisy upper body joint?

By: Alyssa Burke, PTA

Have you ever moved your arm to grab something and felt or heard a pop or click or felt a grinding sensation in your shoulder? If you have, you’re not alone. Many people experience the same clicks and pops in their joints. Clicking and popping in joints is one of the more common complaints we hear in the PT clinic. The shoulder is a complex joint, it is a ball and socket joint which means it can move in many directions. It is surrounded by muscles, tendons and ligaments that keep the joint stable.  So why do our joints click, pop and grind? Here are two of the more common reasons:

  1. Joint deterioration
  2. Soft tissue inflammation

Our joints experience a lot of wear and tear as we age and it can cause the surfaces in our joints to change. The cartilage that surrounds our bones within the joint is at risk to deteriorate as we use our joints and as we age. This deterioration can cause clicking, popping and grinding as we move our shoulder around. For most, this clicking and popping is painless and just noisy.

Our shoulder is made up of many muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bursas. With our daily wear and tear, these soft tissue structures are at risk for becoming inflamed. With this inflammation, the spaces within our joint can become smaller. This can cause clicking, popping and grinding within the joint as the inflamed structures move over each other and the bony surfaces.

In most cases, the clicking, popping and grinding is nothing to worry about. If you are able to move your shoulder throughout the full range of motion and the popping and clicking is pain-free, it is usually nothing serious that needs to be addressed.  It does become concerning when pain accompanies the clicking, popping and grinding or it limits your shoulder range of motion. This can be an indicator that something more serious is going on within the shoulder joint or some of the surround soft tissue structures. If you experience painful clicking popping, or grinding it is recommended to see a medical professional for help to prevent what could be a small problem from becoming a more serious issue.

Don’t wait for the pain to set in with your clicking and popping joints. Physical therapy is an effective, non-evasive treatment option that can help minimize the clicking and popping, whether painful or not, by teaching you stretches, strengthening exercises. A manual physical therapist will also use hands-on techniques to improve joint mobility. Physical therapy will also correct any postural imbalances and educate you on ways to correct mechanics to prevent the re-occurrence of clicking and popping in the future.

Call Loudoun Sports Therapy Center TODAY at 703-450-4300 TODAY and schedule your appointment. CLICK HERE for more on how physical therapy can help you. 

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