Clicking Shoulder

Have you wondered why your shoulder clicks when you raise or rotate your arm? Can this be serious? This is what it means;

Muscle tendons can click as they move over the bone, causing a clicking noise. Tendons are the string-like structures that connect muscles to their supporting bone. When the tendons move over bone, they can click like guitar strings. If you have suddenly started experiencing one of these audible symptoms, then it may be worth having your shoulder assessed. Changes like this can be a sign that you’ve damaged one of the muscles or its tendons, so it may be worth having it investigated.

Clicking, popping, and cracking can be a nuisance. It can also be slightly worrying if you don’t know what the cause is. The good news is that it’s usually pain-free and harmless. But you should be aware that even though it might be painless initially, the sound could be indicative of a more severe shoulder condition. If you do start to experience pain along with clicking, then be extra aware, as it may be a sign of a more severe injury.

Conditions that can lead to clicking in the shoulder

Rotator cuff tears. The muscles of the rotator cuff are put under large amounts of stress and are quite prone to tearing. They can tear partially or entirely as a result of age or general wear and tear. Once torn, the uneven surfaces can rub together, causing cracking noises. Pain can be quite sharp on movement.

Bursitis. Within the shoulder complex, there is a small fluid-filled sac, known as the bursa that sits within the joint capsule. The bursa acts as a cushion and a shock absorber, helping the joint slide together upon movement. If it becomes inflamed through trauma or repetitive stress or strain, then it is known as bursitis.

Labral tear .A tear to the labrum, which is the cartilage holding the shoulder together

Osteoarthritis. As you get older, the shock-absorbing cartilage in your joints wears down in a condition known as osteoarthritis. The joint loses the amount of cushioning in between the bones. Osteoarthritis can cause grinding noises – the sound of the bones rubbing against each other. The increase in friction can cause ache-like pain and stiffness. An added complication can be that nerves can become compressed in the decreased joint space. With any swelling, there’s less space for everything to move, and structures can become tight,

Unhealed fracture. If you have a recent fracture, e.g., in your ribs or shoulder blade, that has not healed properly, it can produce clicking symptoms. In this case, the bone fragments moving against each other are to blame. This situation requires medical assessment. Clicking most commonly occurs when your arms are lifted especially above shoulder height. When you perform pushing movements such as push ups, bench press or side raises. Other everyday activities can cause such noises as well, including throwing a ball or even something as simple as putting a handbag over your shoulder. See your physiotherapist  for assessment.


Prepared by:    
Robert Washe
Physical Therapist
Chiropractic & Physiotherapy Health Centre

My Clicking Shoulder

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