Shoulder Popping

What Is Shoulder Popping?

Shoulder Popping is quite a common problem with most of the individuals who either work or are involved with any sports. In fact this problem is so common that there are numerous people going to ortho physicians almost on a daily basis complaining of this problem and most of the times they ask just one question as to why it is that their shoulder keeps popping. To understand why popping takes place it is necessary to understand the anatomy of the shoulder joint. In actuality, the shoulder joint is not a simple joint but a complex mix of bones, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. It also has two linings protecting it called the synovium and the bursa. Any type of injury to any of these structures affects the normal functioning of the shoulders and the shoulder tends to pop. The injuries to these structures can be caused due to normal routine activities of daily living, pushing something hard at work, falling on the shoulders, shoulder getting injured during contact sporting activity etc.

Shoulder Popping

What Causes Shoulder Popping?

Shoulder Popping normally is caused as a result of an injury to the shoulder joints from everyday routine activities. Aging is also a cause of the shoulder popping since as an individual ages the tendons and ligaments of the joints tend to get weaker and hence are more prone to get injured even with simple force and also the structures tend to rub against each other and the friction caused due to this also causes popping and snapping of the shoulder. As long as the popping of the shoulder is not accompanied by any pain there is no particular treatment required for it. Pain accompanied with popping of the shoulder is usually caused after a significant injury to the shoulder such as after a fall or an injury caused due to playing contact sports. Some of the other causes of Shoulder Popping is instability of the shoulders where the shoulder joint dislocates every now and then without any significant injury. The shoulder may also pop when the rotator cuff gets injured or gets torn. Another cause for Shoulder Popping is tearing of the labrum or cartilage or presence of loose bodies in the shoulder joint.

What Are The Medical Conditions That Cause Shoulder To Pop?

Apart from the above mentioned reasons, there are also certain medical conditions that tend to cause Shoulder Popping. Some of these conditions are:

  • SLAP Lesions: The labrum is a mix of tissues which is situated around the socket joint of the shoulder. The function of the labrum is to make sure that the ligaments are attached to each other and the shoulder stays in position. Due to any traumatic event such as a fall or an injury during sporting activity the labrum may tear and cause the shoulder to pop or snap.
  • Tearing of the Rotator Cuff: If the tendons present in the rotator cuff are injured for any reason which is mostly repetitive activities or sports, which results in tearing of the rotator cuff then there may be separation of the ligaments which may result in Shoulder Popping
  • Shoulder Instability: A shoulder joint is said to be unstable if it tends to get dislocated frequently. By dislocation we mean that the shoulder joint moves out of its normal anatomical position and this again results in popping of the shoulders. Shoulder instability is usually caused due to repeated stress to the shoulders and is found mainly sportsmen involved with sports like tennis, swimming, throw ball etc.
  • Arthritis: Arthritis is another medical condition which causes Shoulders to Pop. Arthritis is caused due to natural wear and tear of the joints. This condition develops with aging of an individual when the ligaments get roughened up, thin, and weak and then to pop and snap.

Normally, Shoulder Popping is a benign condition and happens to everyone every once in a while. Most of the time when the shoulder pops it is painless but when shoulder popping is associated with pain then there may be associated medical condition like a labral or a rotator cuff tear which requires further treatment with a specialist.

What Is The Treatment For Shoulder Popping?

Shoulder Popping does not require any invasive treatment unless it is caused by labral or rotator cuff tears which need surgical correction. The frontline treatment for a popping shoulder is to rest the shoulder for some time, stay away from activities which may aggravate the symptoms, ice the affected shoulder by applying ice for 15 to 20 minutes two to three times a day. Anti inflammatories may also be of help in case there is some pain associated with the popping. Physical therapy and exercises are also an important aspect of treatment of Shoulder Popping. The physical therapist will formulate an exercise regimen best suited for you in order to strengthen and stabilize the shoulders and prevent it from frequent dislocations and Shoulder Popping.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: April 16, 2015

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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