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Causes of Popping Noise in the Shoulder

Medically Reviewed by Cellaxys

By Published: March 4, 2020Updated: June 11, 2023No Comments

When you move your shoulder, you may hear or feel a popping or clicking sound around the point where the joint meets at the top of your arm. This sensation is called crepitus. A popping, cracking, or grinding shoulder can sometimes be accompanied by severe pain or warmth. 

That discomfort might be the result of an accident or a medical condition. The third most prevalent muscle and joint problem that brings individuals to the doctor is shoulder injuries, stiffness, and discomfort.

Causes of Shoulder Popping

Causes of Shoulder Popping

The cause of shoulder popping can usually be determined based on a person’s age. If they are under the age of 30, their shoulder clicking noises are most likely the consequence of repetitive usage or a past accident that caused the shoulder ligaments to become loose. Young athletes who participate in contact sports may exhibit this behavior. 

With those over the age of 55, crepitus in the shoulder is most likely caused by degenerative changes in the joint. The following are some of the most prevalent causes of shoulder crepitus:

  • Shoulder dislocation: Shoulder dislocations are a prevalent cause of shoulder popping and usually develop as a result of an acute injury. When the shoulder is injured, the joint loosens up and the ball of the shoulder slides up or over the border of the socket. A popping or cracking sound can be heard as the ball returns to its original position.
  • Arthritis: The padding that once surrounded the joint has been eliminated due to the loss of cartilage. During movement, the surfaces of the shoulder bones brush against each other as a result of this. When cartilage is missing, the bones of the shoulder are inherently rough, resulting in cracking, clicking, or popping noises.
  • Rotator cuff tears and inflammation: The rotator cuff is a set of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint and serve to hold the upper arm bone’s head securely within the ball socket. A loose edge within the shoulder caused by torn rotator cuff tendons can snag on other ligaments or structures in the shoulder, causing excruciating crepitus. Inflammation can occur in situations of rotator cuff tendinosis, leading to severe shoulder joint injury. 
  • Labral tears: The shoulder joint is made up of a ball and socket that smoothly fit together. The labrum is a ring of thick fibrous tissue that surrounds the shoulder joint socket. It also acts as a ligament attachment and aids in keeping the ball of the shoulder in place. Crepitus can develop if the labrum of the shoulder gets injured or torn as a consequence of an accident or repetitive stress. Those who suffer from severe crepitus as a result of labral tears and do not respond to physical therapy may need surgery. A SLAP lesion is defined as tears on the top of the labrum.

What Is the Treatment for Shoulder Popping?

Shoulder popping does not necessitate invasive treatment or major surgical interventions in most cases. Resting the shoulder for a period of time, avoiding activities that may worsen the symptoms, and icing the afflicted shoulder for 15 to 20 minutes 2-3 times a day are the first-line treatments for a popping shoulder.

In the event that the popping causes discomfort, anti-inflammatories may be beneficial. Physical therapy and exercises are also significant components of shoulder popping treatment. In order to stabilize and strengthen the shoulders, as well as avoid frequent dislocations and enhance range of motion, the physical therapist will create an exercise routine tailored to each individual.

If your shoulders just crack or pop once in a while and don’t cause you any pain, home therapy should sufficiently treat crepitus. The following are some common home remedies for shoulder popping:

  • Posture: Sitting straight up at a computer or while driving may make a huge difference in how your shoulders feel. For some people, good posture might help them get rid of persistent shoulder discomfort.
  • Yoga: Over time, yoga can be an effective strategy to reduce and relieve shoulder popping and discomfort. Yoga also aids in the improvement of posture and respiration.
  • Foam roller: Foam rollers, which are commonly used by physical therapists, are reasonably affordable and easy to obtain for home usage. The soft tissue of the shoulder is stimulated by these rollers. This type of manual treatment can assist with shoulder discomfort caused by soreness, sitting all day, or bad posture.
  • Icing or cold compression: Applying ice or a cold compress to your injured shoulder will help relieve inflammation. This may help to relieve discomfort and reduce swelling. A cold compress may also aid in the quicker healing of a shoulder injury.

Though at-home treatments can provide benefits for many, sometimes pain and popping persist. Corrective surgery may become necessary for some injuries, but it is important to consider all treatment options available when making the decision to undergo surgery.

Cell Based Therapies: Cutting Edge Treatments  for Shoulder & Rotator Cuff Injuries

The emerging field of regenerative medicine seeks to treat injury using a patient’s own cells. CELLAXYS focuses on  Cell Based Therpies: autologous stem cell transplantation and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy.

Autologous stem cells are gathered using a patient’s blood, bone marrow, or adipose (fat) tissue. This type of cell is located throughout the body, and they are used for natural healing processes. Transplantations occur in typically 4-7 locations in the injured shoulder.  Both live X-Rays and live MSK Ultrasound are used in the transplantation.  

PRP is created when a patient’s blood is placed in a centrifuge, which separates platelets from other components in the blood. Platelets are then concentrated to 4-10x normal concentrations depending upon the injury.  Platelets are also used in the body to help heal injury or damage. PRP can be an extremely effective therapy for less severe shoulder and rotator cuff injuries. 

Cell based therapies have been increasingly popular due to the effective outcomes and short recovery times.  Your physician at Cellaxys will discuss the best option for you specific injury.  

Dr. Pouya Mohajer

Director of Regenerative Interventional Spine Medicine
Board certification in Anesthesiology and Interventional Pain Medicine
Fellowship-trained from Harvard University
UCLA Alumni


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