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Is Clicking and Popping in my Shoulders Normal?

By Angie Austin, LPTA

Is that clicking and popping in my shoulder normal? This is a question that physical therapy clinicians hear often at Loudoun Sports Therapy Center. There can be multiple reasons for clicking and popping in the shoulder. The shoulder is a ball and socket joint that is made up of bone, cartilage, ligaments and tendons. The shoulder is capable of multi directional movements, which can also make it very unstable and prone to injury.

Clicking and popping in the shoulder is often normal. However, here are some questions you should ask yourself before you start worrying:

  1. Is there pain associated with the clicking or popping?
  2. Does the shoulder feel unstable or weak?
  3. Have you had any recent injuries that might have contributed to your shoulder problem?

Most popping and clicking in the shoulder joint is associated with normal wear and tear of the joint. This is also known as crepitus. Crepitus is a painless, harmless noise. As we age, the surfaces and the cartilage in the joint become rough, which can cause noise as the structures glide or roll over each other. For most people, painless clicking and/or popping in the shoulder or any joint for that matter, is nothing to worry about and will often go away. For others though, this clicking and popping may be a sign of arthritis developing.

What signs should you be cautious of?

While bony surface contact can cause the clicking and popping, these noises can also come about when soft tissues glide over the bony surfaces. Muscle tendons are very strong string-like structures that can also cause clicking when gliding or sliding over bony surfaces. Overtime these tendons can become inflamed, which causes discomfort. However, if left untreated, this inflammation and discomfort  can lead to more serious problems. Don’t ignore early signs of pain lasting longer that two weeks. Let a physical therapist evaluate your shoulder and come up with a plan to get your back to pain-free activity and movement.

What should not be ignored:

Moving the shoulder should not cause pain. If you do feel significant pain, instability and/or weakness is also associated with clicking and popping, this can be indicative of a more serious problem. There are many shoulder injuries that result from repetitive overuse and stress to the joint. These types of injuries generally occur overtime and can include: rotator cuff tears, labral tears, impingement and arthritis.

Rule of thumb, if you’re experiencing significant pain, popping and clicking or instability in the shoulder and you can associate this with an injury such as a fall or weight lifting incident, seek a medical professional right away.

How can physical therapy help?

Our clinicians at LSTC are experienced in all types of shoulder injuries. By scheduling a full evaluation at Loudoun Sports Therapy Center, your physical therapist will assess your shoulder strength, mobility and also look at the structures surrounding the joint. They will be able to determine the cause of your problem and what steps need to be taken to get your back to the activities you want and need to be able to perform pain-free. Call our office today at 703-450-4300.

CLICK HERE for more on how physical therapy can help you.


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