Clicking in Shoulder

What is shoulder popping, and how is it treated?

Does your shoulder make painful clicking or popping sounds when you move it?

The sound of a shoulder popping may cause concern in many who experience this. However, a popping shoulder can often have several causes, both mild and severe.

Hearing clicking sounds in the shoulder joints is a very common condition that affects males and females of all ages.

When the shoulder makes a popping sound, it is called “shoulder crepitus.” Shoulder crepitus is when the shoulder joint makes a clicking or popping sound when it’s in motion.

This condition can also occur in the knee and finger joints. This condition can cause pain in the joints.

If you are experiencing pain or hear a popping or clicking sound in your shoulder, then schedule a consultation with our shoulder specialists at OrthoNeuro located in Columbus, Ohio.

Anatomy of the Shoulder Joint

The shoulder is a complex joint in the body that is complete with muscles, ligaments, cartilage, and tendons all working together to allow a wide range of flexibility and motion in the arm.

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint and can be easily injured because of its many components.

In the shoulder, the humerus bone (upper arm bone) connects to the socket of the scapula (shoulder blade) and goes from the back to your clavicle (collarbone).

The labrum (a soft cartilage cup) lines the socket and helps to hold the arm in place.

What Are the Causes of Clicking Noises in the Shoulder?

The clicking sound that is heard when a shoulder “pops” is from the muscles and tendons moving over the bone. 

Usually, when this sound occurs, it is a sign that one of the tendons or muscles in the shoulder has been damaged.

This condition is usually caused by sports injuries and general overuse of the joint.

Many times when a person hears popping and clicking sounds when they move their arms and shoulders, it’s because of conditions such as:

What Are the Symptoms of Shoulder Injuries?

Some of the symptoms that are commonly experienced by those with crepitus of the shoulder are:

  • Painful clicking in the shoulder
  • Redness and swelling of the shoulder
  • Stiffness in the shoulder joints
  • Weakness in the shoulder
  • Inability to raise your arm or have a normal range of motion
  • The shoulder feels “loose,” like it could pop out of place
  • The shoulder may appear deformed

When to See a Doctor

In most cases, when a popping noise is heard in the shoulder, there is no pain that comes along with it.

However, although there might be no pain initially, the sound could indicate a more severe shoulder condition.

If a shoulder joint injury is left untreated, it can turn into a condition called “frozen shoulder” (adhesive capsulitis). 

It is very important to see a doctor and be treated when you hear a popping sound coming from your shoulder so that your shoulder can be treated as early as possible.

How Are Shoulder Injuries Diagnosed?

A physician may diagnose a shoulder injury by first conducting a physical exam and asking you questions about the clicking noises you’ve been hearing in your shoulder. 

Your healthcare professional may also take imaging tests such as X-rays, MRIs, and ultrasounds to view the shoulder and its surrounding tissues better.

They may also take tests such as blood tests and antibody tests to check for the presence of infections and autoimmune disorders.

How Is a Shoulder Injury Treated?

A shoulder injury is usually treated by the following methods:

  • Resting the shoulder
  • Applying ice to the shoulder to reduce swelling
  • Compression of the shoulder
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Correcting posture
  • Massage therapy
  • Corticosteroid injections

Many times a physician will prescribe physical therapy to treat a shoulder injury when there is clicking in the shoulder along with shoulder pain.


If you are seeking medical care for a cracking sound in your shoulder or pain in the shoulder, schedule a consultation with one of our expert orthopedic surgeons for an accurate diagnosis and a personalized treatment plan. Call and schedule an appointment today.

Make an Appointment with an OrthoNeuro Shoulder Specialist Today!

If your shoulder is making painful clicking sounds when you move it, schedule an appointment with one of our Board Certified Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Specialists at one of our 7 convenient locations throughout Greater Columbus. 

We will evaluate your unique lifestyle and goals to determine which type of treatment is best for you.

Shoulder Specialists

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