Why Does My Shoulder Pop – Is it Serious?


People will often come up to me and ask why their shoulders pop when they move. Most of the time the answer is simple. The typical reasons this happens are:

1. An inflamed muscle or tendon moving and because it is inflamed and bigger, it could make a popping sound or feel like a popping sound. There can be no pain with the pop.

2. A muscle or tendon moving.

3. A ligament (connects bone to bone and helps hold the bone in place) is just moving out of place a bit. There is not pain with the pop.

4. Postural problem leading to poor motion in the shoulder.

5. A broken bone. Bones don’t just break. There has to be some trauma to the bone.

6. A torn muscle or ligament. Muscles and ligaments don’t just tear. There has to be some trauma to the muscle or ligament.

7. A dislocation. Again, bones rarely dislocate without trauma.

8. Bursitis. There are sacs of fluid in the shoulder that help lubricate. These can get inflamed and cause popping and pain.

9. Arthritis. Usually people talk about bone spurs (build up of calcium that looks like a spur). This is part of


10. Joint inflammation because of some other reason.

Most people have popping with no other signs or symptoms. They have full range of motion and no pain. This usually means #1, #2 or #3 above. This is usually no big deal and can be dealt with through stretching, strengthening and massage. It should just be watched and checked on from time to time. Some people have popping with no pain that never goes away and if there are no other symptoms, and other reasons like poor posture and arthritis have been checked into, it is generally just the way their muscles and ligaments move over each other- just the way they are built.

If people have pain with the popping and/or other symptoms what to do about it depends on:

Where is the pain?

Where in the movement does the pain occur?

Was there trauma?

How bad?

And so on. This needs to be checked out thoroughly by an orthopedic doctor, a physical therapist or chiropractic physician that is skilled in dealing with shoulders.