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What is Shoulder Crepitus & Exercises to Get Rid of It?

What is Shoulder Crepitus?

Crepitus is the medical terminology used for a granulating, squeaking, or grinding sound or vibe that happens with movement of a joint. One of the common places where crepitus can occur is the shoulder joint and is known as shoulder crepitus. It very well may be created by contact among bone and ligament or the broken portion of a bone with regard to joints. Crepitus can happen at any age, however, more frequently occurs in the elderly population. In this regard it must be noted that the term crepitus isn’t applicable only for the joints, as it might also be used to depict a crackling sound heard in the lungs in cases of certain lung problem.

What is Shoulder Crepitus?

Symptoms Associated with Shoulder Crepitus

There are different symptoms associated with shoulder crepitus and they include some kind of sensation and sound. These are:

  • Grinding
  • Popping
  • Crackling
  • Grating
  • Creaking
  • Cracking.

If these side effects happen without changes in movement, it isn’t considered as a real issue. If in case, the range of movement changes or there is pain, the condition ought to be considered as an emergency and restorative treatment needs to be followed.

What are the Causes of Shoulder Crepitus?

More often than not, the reason for crepitus may be predicted by a man’s age. If the people are younger than 30, odds are that the clicking sounds in the shoulders are due to repetitive strain or any previous damage that has prompted releasing of ligaments of the shoulder. This might be found in athletes involved with contact sports like football and rugby.

Those who are beyond 55 years old with shoulder crepitus probably experience it as the ill effects of degeneration of the joint due to age.

Some of the reasons for shoulder crepitus are:

Labral Tears Can Cause Shoulder Crepitus:

The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint in which the ball smoothly fits in the socket allowing for normal motion of the shoulder. A ring made out of thick fibrous tissue encompasses the shoulder joint attachment known as labrum. This likewise fills in as a connection for the tendons and enables the chunk of the shoulder to remain in position. On the off chance that there is a labral tear from any kind of damage or dreary pressure, it might cause development of crepitus. The people who have crepitus as a result of labral tears and do not have a positive response to active treatment may require a medical procedure. A tear on the highest point of the labrum is termed a SLAP injury.

Rotator Cuff Tear:

Rotator cuff is a part of shoulder which contains group of ligaments and muscles that encompass the shoulder joint and keeps the top of upper arm bone immovably inside the ball attachment. On the off chance that the rotator sleeve ligaments are torn, a free edge inside the shoulder can get on different tendons or ligaments in the shoulder causing crepitus which can severely painful and debilitating. In cases of rotator cuff tendinitis, aggravation can occur causing the shoulder joint more damage. This can lead to bursitis causing extra swelling prompting further clicking sensation with crepitus.

Shoulder Dislocation:

Normally happens because of intense damage, a shoulder dislocation is one of the most common causes of shoulder crepitus. Damage to shoulder makes the shoulder loose and causes the ball of the shoulder joint to move over the edge of the socket portion. When the ball portion comes back into its normal anatomical position, a sound is heard which is reminiscent of crepitus.

Arthritis as a Cause of Shoulder Crepitus:

Loss of ligament encompassing the joint can lead to loss of cushioning to the joint. This causes rubbing of bones with any movement resulting in popping and clicking sounds that is heard with crepitus.

Treatment for Shoulder Crepitus

There are some gentle exercises that you can do for shoulder crepitus. One needs to meet with a doctor or an experienced physiotherapist to understand which exercises can be done to improve the condition. To increase the strength of the muscles and improve the movement quality, exercise is necessary. In this situation, heavy exercises are a big no-no. Here are some shoulder exercises that can help to reduce the pain.

Exercise # 1 to Get Rid of Shoulder Crepitus:

Hold a towel in the hands with palms facing towards the ceiling. Keep the elbows at the sides bent perpendicular to the floor. Now, gradually move the arms to the right and then the left. Do this a few times while increasing the intensity and frequency every time as long as it does not cause any pain or discomfort in the shoulders.

Exercise # 2 for Shoulder Crepitus:

Wrap a towel on your waist just like a belt and hold the two ends of the towel. Keep the elbows at the side and bend them at right angles with palms facing each other. Next, gradually move the arms to one side and then the other to extend the rotator cuff muscles.

Exercise # 3 for Shoulder Crepitus:

Hold a towel in front of you at shoulder level. Spread the hands at shoulder width. Now hold the palms down and turn the towel upwards. Do this in one way first and the other direction. Repeat the exercises a few times.

Shoulder Crepitus Exercise 4:

For this exercise, hold the towel at should-width apart with the palms facing downwards. Now, keeping the elbows straight, raise the hand till shoulder height and then relax by bringing the hands down to the starting position. Repeat it several times with each time raising the hands a little higher towards the ceiling while staying in the comfort range. In case you experience any pain while doing the exercise, stop it immediately.

Shoulder Crepitus Exercise 5:

Now, hold the towel at a little farther apart from shoulder width and raise the hands and the towel above the head. Once the towel is overhead, bring it down towards the head gently and then take it up again. Do this a few times while attempting to bring behind the head eventually.

Practicing the exercises regularly will help in increasing the range of motion in the shoulder. This is also help in dealing with the shoulder crepitus. However, if the pain is severe or the range of motion of the shoulder is limited, do consult with a physician or physical therapist. They will design the exercise sessions according to your specific needs.


  1. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. (2019). Shoulder Joint Tear (Glenoid Labrum Tear) https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/shoulder-joint-tear-glenoid-labrum-tear
  2. Arthritis Foundation. (n.d.). What is Arthritis? https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/about-arthritis/understanding-arthritis/what-is-arthritis

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 31, 2023

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