My shoulder snaps and pops and I hear clicking … why?

Author: Howard J. Luks, MD- Posted in: Labral Tears, Shoulder, Shoulder Dislocation, Shoulder FAQ 114 Comments

Snapping shoulder

Shoulder snapping and poppingShoulder snapping or popping is a very common issue— it is so common that this is one of the most frequently searched topics on my website.  I see between 5-10 patients a week who are simply in my office because they want to know – Why my  shoulder snaps and pops?

The shoulder is a very complex joint composed of bone, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and two different linings we call the synovium and the bursa.     If any of these structures are injured, the smoothly functioning shoulder can pop, snap or click.   These “injuries” can be simply due to everyday use, chronic repetitive stress of sports or because of a significant trauma, fall or accident.

Should I be worried if my shoulder pops?

Most of the time the clicking or snapping is due to everyday use and changes that occur naturally within our joints.  As we age this causes some of the surfaces to roughen —thus when they rub against one another they will snap, click, or pop within the shoulder.    In the majority of circumstances snapping or clicking of the shoulder is not an issue to worry about.    Painless clicking and popping usually does not require any treatment at all.

On the other hand, clicking or popping of shoulder may also soon after an injury.  That might mean that you have sustained a “significant” injury.

There are occasions when popping or snapping could signify a problem in your shoulder.

  • If your shoulder was injured and it  is now sliding in and out of place (instability), it may snap or pop.
  •  If the rotator cuff was injured or torn, the torn edge could snap or pop. Or…
  • If the labrum of the shoulder was torn,  your shoulder may also snap or pop.
  • A piece of cartilage has torn loose and you have a “loose body” getting caught in the shoulder.
  • If the snapping is in the back of the shoulder, it could be an issue with your shoulder blade, or scapula.  


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 Painful clicking or popping of the shoulder.

Some conditions that will make a shoulder snap or pop include:

Labral Tears or SLAP lesions 

The shoulder is similar to a golf ball sitting on a golf tee.  Imagine that the golf tee has a rubber washer sitting around the edge.  That is exactly what the labrum is in the shoulder. It is a rim of tissue around the socket of the shoulder. It serves as an attachment for the ligaments, and it helps the ball of  the shoulder stay in position.  If the labrum or cartilage in the shoulder is torn a result of a single traumatic event or repetitive stress (pitching), then it may be separating from the bone or becoming caught in shoulder and causing a pop or a snap.   Click here to learn more about labral tears. 
Labral Tear causes popping and snapping
This is a picture showing a labrum tear with exposed bone. The metal probe is resting on the labrum.


Repair of labrum to stop snapping.

This is the same labral tear once it has been repaired and stitched back to the bone.


Rotator Cuff Tears

If the rotator cuff tendons are injured then Full Thickness Rotator Cuff Tearthere is a loose edge within the shoulder that can catch on other ligaments or structures in the shoulder.  This may lead to painful snapping or popping. Click here to help determine if you have a rotator cuff tear?   Click here to learn more about rotator cuff tears. 

Shoulder Dislocations

Shoulder DislocationIf the shoulder ligaments were injured from an acute injury or from repetitive stress, the shoulder may have become loose and is dislocating.  This can lead the ball of the shoulder to slide up or over the edge of the socket.   When the ball then falls back into place it may cause snapping or popping.   This section on shoulder dislocations delves further into detail on shoulder instability.  For more information. Click here to learn more about shoulder dislocations


Loose bodies or debris

Loose bodies can cause shoulder snapping and poppin

This is the picture of a loose body in the shoulder and can serve as an obvious case of popping or catching.



Arthritis, by definition is the loss of cartilage or the cushioning on the ends of our bones.  If the cartilage is rough, thinning or absent, the surfaces of the shoulder will be rough and causing clicking, snapping and popping.

Notice that the cartilage here is literally peeling off the bone underneath. These flaps or pieces can cause clicking and popping.

 Rest assured that the vast majority of shoulder snapping or clicking is *normal*.  If you have pain, or if you are concerned –or certainly if your snapping or popping started after an injury — an evaluation by a sports medicine trained orthopedist may be able to put your worst fears to rest.


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 For more information on the anatomy or structures of the shoulder check out this section on shoulder anatomy.


Howard Luks MD, 19 Bradhurst Avenue, Hawthorne, New York 10532, United States - Phone: 914-789-2735 Email:


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114 Responses to “My shoulder snaps and pops and I hear clicking … why?”

  1. Reply Dylan says:

    What about if somebody has had a torn AC in the shoulder and dislocated shoulder? Because now after my injury every time I work out I have a painful pop in my shoulder and also I some mobility issues with it, for example bringing bench press all the way down to my chest is near to impossible for me and if I do it feels as if my shoulder will pop out at any given moment. Do you have any advise, for a 18 year old on what is the best fix/ help the problem?

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Dylan… if your shoulder feels unstable and you have a history of a prior shoulder dislocation, you should consider seeing a sports medicine doctor who specializes in the treatment of shoulder issues. Once the source or reason for your dislocation and current apprehension is determined, you can then talk about the alternatives available to alleviate the problem.
      Good Luck
      Howard Luks

      • Reply Joy says:


        I am 16 and have not had any injury that I am aware of. However, every time I move around my arms or shoulder,my back and shoulders pop and crack nonstop and is often painful. Also, the pain seems to radiate to my neck as well. It is quite hard to describe how it really feels but it just feels like every single bone in my upper back and shoulders are cracking.

        Thank you.

        • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

          Hi Joy.. I’m sorry you feel this way. Have you seen a pediatric orthopedic surgeon? It might be worth your time.
          Good Luck
          Howard Luks

  2. Reply David says:

    I never hurt my shoulder but when I was 16 my shoulder started popping extremely loud (not painful though), then as time went by I noticed the popping was softer and less rough.
    Slowly, my shoulder became weaker. It’s been 5 years now since the popping started. It hardly pops now but I can’t have my arm up for more then a number of seconds before my shoulder feels too weak that I have to bring it down.
    I can’t throw a ball more then a couple of times because my shoulder will be really sore the next day (and that is when the popping is more frequent).
    What can it be?
    I can live with not using my shoulder much (as I have these past years) but I want to know!
    I would like to do boxing or tennis or baseball but having my arms up is impossible! The pain the day after is harsh.
    What do you think it is??

  3. Reply Kevin says:

    I have never had a shoulder problem. I am 45 and was on a trampoline ride of sorts where you have to wear a harness around your waist and its connected to some rubber bands on each side of me. You pull on the rubber bands like a parachute cord and jump on the trampoline getting height. Anyway i never felt any pain or problem while doing this but a day or so later felt pretty sore in arms and shoulders. Once the soreness went away when i move my left arm in certain directions it feels like a pop and hurts just for that instant. It feels like a tendon or something shifts in my shoulder and only hurts when it moves/shifts slightly. I pulled my car door shut today and i felt some pain/soreness not a pop or shift just sore when pulling. It does not hurt at all while not using it. It has been a couple weeks and still the same issue. I have not taken any medicine at all. I worked out the other day and bench pressed no problem, but if i try and lift a weight from my waist keeping my arm straight and lift up to the height of my neck/ shoulder it hurts in the outside shoulder. Any ideas of what my problem is or even what i should do. Should i leave it alone for awhile and see if it goes away, take an anti-inflammatory, use heat or ice??
    Any advice would be great….Thanks, Kevin

  4. Reply Heather says:

    My name is Heather and I am 25. I have never had a shoulder injury before, but for years my right shoulder has had a catch in it and pops a lot. It has progressed to the point that it catches every time I feed my son a bite of food(arm stretched straight forward) and every time I have to get something off a shelf. I have to pull my arm behind me to get it to release and then it pops loudly. This isn’t necessarily painful, just annoying when caring for my children or even grocery shopping. Any advice?

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Heather… If this has persisted for a while and you are concerned… a good history and exam should be able to tell you what’s going on. I would suggest seeing a surgeon who specializes in the shoulder.
      Good luck

  5. Reply TJ says:

    I’m 25 and have been experiencing pain in my shoulder/biceps/triceps/chest for the past 5 years on and off. My shoulder pops when I roll it but does not hurt. If anything, it relieves the pain a tiny bit. My doctor says its normal but when the pain comes, sometimes its in my arm only or chest only. I noticed that with increased stress, the pain comes on strong. My doctor recommended doing Yoga. Should I seek another opinion?

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      I would continue to seek opinions until you have an answer. Painless popping at your age could be related to the labrum and/or posterior instability….
      Good Luck
      Howard Luks

  6. Reply Robert says:


    I am not s physician, but I have trained S&C at the high school level, and lifted weights and studied exercise myself for 31 years.

    What I have found is that most males who regularly weight train have extreme imbalance in their shoulder development. [This is not that earth-shattering a discovery, BTW.]

    With the help of your physician/medical professional, you should be able to quickly identify if this is the case for you, and establish a treatment program.

    Typically, it’s not the most exciting or challenging work you do, but with consistency and a little luck, you suddenty realize, “Hey, I don’t have that shoulder pain anymore!”

  7. Reply Jake says:

    Hi names Jake
    Anyways I’ve read the stuff about why my shoulder could be popping and understand somewhat but my other worry is my clavicle is popping by my neck side and shoulder side so in multiple places across my shoulder…..and its on my left and right side it don’t hurt but I don’t wanna go to a doctor to spend money on something that could just be a natural thing….I could use some advice on what I should do…thanx

  8. Reply Jake says:

    Sry Jake again about my popping in my shoulder and clavicle…better description it like pops on the outsides but has a like cracking mixed in with it…it has like multiple pops and cracks

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Jake… There are many reasons why our joints pop and snap. Some of you have “loose” ligaments which allow your joints to slosh around and move “in and out” of place. Most of the times this is not of concern… especially if there is little or no pain associated with it.


  9. Reply volontarie says:

    hello. im 17 year old and when i touch my shoulder and move it in the circles i feel lots of bone movements like jumping against each other… i love to exercise because i wanna join in army next year… while exercising like doing push ups i can hear little crackling not loud… there is no pain and my shoulder is little bit weak i can hold it in the air for like 1 minute then its getting little bit tired… but there is no pain and nothing… is there a problem or is it fully normal?

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      It may be normal for you. Many people have loose ligaments that lead to the shoulder bones moving around more than in other people. Unless it is painful, it is unlikely to be an issue.

  10. Reply S RAJESH KUMAR says:

    Dear Sir,
    (Age 33) I was diagnosed for positive rotator cuff impingement on 06Feb 2013 and after getting some medical treatment by ortho they now (8 April 2013) say that I got no impingement anymore but I feel some snap and pop when I move my injured hand sideways to all the way up above my head. I am not doing any shoulder workout anymore bcoz I got little bit of swelling on the back of my injured shoulder recently. Swelling subsided after couple of days but I am confused whether I should start my shoulder therapy workout or not? Do I need another MRI to get a more clear picture? Please reply and help.
    S Rajesh Kumar

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Further imaging seems like a good idea in light of the swelling and persistent painful mechanical symptoms.

      Good Luck
      Howard Luks

      • Reply S RAJESH KUMAR says:

        Dear Sir,

        A very good morning to you. As per your advice I went to an orthoped doc and asked if I need to go for a 2nd MRI but since I didnt have any pain in my shoulder area, even when lifting my hand above head, the ortho doc advised me not to go for another MRI and gave me some prescriptions like Bravia-D, Ciplax 10, Cobadex czs (sorry I may not be 100% correct with the spelling) and a vit-D tablet. What do you think about the the above mentioned prescriptions? Is it the right kind of medicine for a rotator cuff injury to heal?
        I dont have any problems or pain lifting my hand at all but still there is some cracking or snapping sound coming out from my injured shoulder when I try to do some therapy workout.
        Could you please give me some idea as to what may be the reason causing such sounds.
        Please reply and oblige. I shall remain thankful to you always.

        Thanks and regards,
        S Rajesh Kumar

  11. Reply Daniel says:

    Hello, I’m sixteen, I’ve just started working out again, after being inactive due to a family crisis. It’s been about a week since I started working out, and just today, I noticed that my right shoulder is off. It popped and cracked today while I was doing push-ups, and now it feels weird. There is little pain, only when I touch the area, but I feel slightly weaker in my arm now. From diagrams I’ve looked up and by touching the area, I’ve noticed that the tissue around the “acromion”, (at least I think that’s what it’s called) feels looser than the other arm.

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      There are so many reasons while a shoulder can pop and snap. Even more when you’re 16 and your growth plates are open. If you are able to work-out then continue doing so and see if your symptoms improve. If they do not improve then consider seeing an orthopedist in a few weeks.
      good luck
      Howard Luks

  12. Reply maxine says:

    (Age 14) Everytime I move my shoulder it pops and cracks. It has been going on for quite a long time but does not hurt if I’m not involved in sports. It constantly hurts when I’m actively involved in either soccer (im a goal keeper)or softball. What should I do?

    Please reply have lots of sports and need some advice before it gets worse
    Thank You

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Maxine… Painful snapping in an adolescents shoulder — especially for a young woman, may mean that your shoulder is loose… Perhaps it’s time to see an Orthopedist.
      Good Luck.
      Howard Luks

  13. Reply Patty says:

    I have had 5 shoulder surgeries and am looking at a total shoulder I am only 44. I developed an infection after they pinned my biceps on a previous surgery. The last surgery they moved the bicep because of the infection and inflamation. I have been on antibiotics through and IV for 6 weeks. No guarantee that they will get rid of the infection. This morning my shoulder popped and it hurt I don’t want to call my doctor for fear that he will say something is wrong. Is it normal to have a loud pop with pain 6 weeks after a surgery? I am still in therapy.


    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      A few things… first, in a shoulder that has arthritis, the surfaces are rough. Second, after multiple surgeries, there is likely to be scar tissue as well. Combined those can produce popping sounds, grinding, clicking etc. One thing to keep in mind.. after an infection… even if it appears to be gone, your risk of developing an infection after a shoulder replacement is quite high. There are steps to take to minimize this risk, so make sure to let the surgeon who performs the replacement about your history of an infection when the time comes.

      Howard Luks

  14. Reply ANNETTE says:

    My left shoulder has been popping for a few months and I is painful, I went to the doctor and he gave me medicine that is not doing anything, and now I cannot lift my arm higher then my shoulder and now the pain goes into my upper arm and sometimes down into the lower arm, it feels like someone is shoving something sharp in my shoulder and even if I try to reach for something it hurts really bad, I cannot get my doctor to take me seriuosly and I am worried that I am making it worse, Have even thought about getting a sling to try and rest it.

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      A sling might help with pain relief, but in the end, may lead to a stiff shoulder. There are many reasons for a popping shoulder to be painful. Perhaps not the answer you want to hear… but you simply need to find an orthopedist or doctor willing to listen to you and educate you about your shoulder condition.
      Good Luck!

  15. Reply Tyhesia says:

    Good morning, I had a tear in my rotator cuff, which the doctor surgically repaired over a year ago. I’m still in pain after physical therapy I’ve also notice a huge lump in my muscle just below my shoulder. Should I do more physical therapy? The pain is getting back to the point of waking me up again. Suggestions welcome

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Sounds like an exam by a second sports doc might help you… always helps to put another set of eyeballs onto a problem that persists.

      Howard Luks

  16. Reply Name JOSH J says:

    hi there im 32 yrs old and ive been having shoulder pain for 10 yrs or so now I constantly have to pop my shoulder to relieve the pain after holding something for a period of time and when im sleeping at night and if I have my left arm above my head on my pillow when I wake up my left shoulder is in severe pain and hurts to move my arm for a few minutes I had an xray and a mri done 2 yrs ago and the xray showed I have a healed clavical fracture that I never knew I had cause I didn’t hurt like a broken bone or anything and I have noticed that my left shoulder is a lot lower then my right shoulder the MRI I had done shows a joint separation and they noticed a slight bicep tear in my left arm I went to one surgeon and he didn’t know what to do so he sent me to another surgeon and she recommened physical theopy but 2 yrs later im stil in a lot of pain and tired of it .

  17. Reply GD says:

    I went to an orthopedic surgeon after having an MRI on my right shoulder that showed LHB &subscapular tendinosis and an Arthrogram/MRI showing a slap tear. I have constant pain from my upper back and neck all the way down to my right hand. The surgeon gave me a cortisone shot and told me I could return to my job as a cashier on Monday with no restrictions. According to most things I haveread, this will not help my tendinosis heal. What are your thoughts on what my next step should be and his form of “treatment”. He didn’t mention any kind of physical therapy or anything. Just to see him for a follow up in 5 wks.

  18. Reply Beatrice says:

    Hi. I’m 22 years old, and for the past eight or nine years, I’ve had off and on popping and clicking in my left shoulder. It’s generally not painful, although it’s susceptible to aching in cold/humid weather, or when I’ve overexerted myself. When I perform any exercise that involves lifting weights over my head (no matter how light), there is a more obvious clicking that, while not painful, exactly, makes my shoulder feel weak, and as though it could become painful easily.

    I suppose my question is, is this a cause for concern?

  19. Reply chris says:

    hi im Chris im 22 live in Cumberland MD. I’ve been having pains in my shoulder it cracks and pops when i rotate it and hurts to hold my arm up for to long and i get these random sharp pains that only last a second or 2 but will go down the edge of my shoulder blade and im getting like cramps in my bicep an forearm I’ve been to the hospital and they tell me its a pinched nerve had x-rays and a MRI the x-ray showed nothing and the same with the MRI. trying to find a orthopedist or someone who can help me solve this do you have any idea?

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      I’m stumped… well sort of… You need to be examined to better determine what the source of your pain is. Sorry I can’t be of further assistance with these complaints.

  20. Reply Conner Barrett says:

    I had a slight fracture in my shoulder blade a few years back and now my shoulder pop all the time… also it starts to ache after using it for a while and i use my shoulders arms a lot during physical exercise, im in the army and i need some advice what to do

  21. Reply Conner Barrett says:

    I had a slight fracture in my shoulder blade a few years back and now my shoulder pop all the time… also it starts to ache after using it for a while and i use my shoulders arms a lot during physical exercise, im in the army and i need some advice what to do

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Hmmm … it would be hard to comment without knowing what your X-ray shows. If you fractured your scapula (shoulder blade) and it didn’t heal perfectly well it could be catching on soft tissues under the scapula… hard to say without seenig you and your X-ray.

  22. Reply Matt L says:

    Hi there,

    I am a 28 year old male.

    I have an interest in lifting weights. 6 weeks ago during a routine shoulder press, I felt a pain on the outside of my right arm. It feels like it is where the lateral deltoid connects with the arm.

    Now there is a consistent dull ache, that is exaggerated with any pressing movement. I find anti-inflammatory drugs numb the dull ache.

    I have tried resting for a few weeks, and also rehabilitating for a few weeks by doing face pulls, and movements to get blood into the area, but the dull ache still pursuits.

    Some people have told me it could be an impingement, others tell me it could be ligament damage.

    I am keen to get back to training, but I am not sure what the best course of action is?

    Are the any injuries in which gental rehabilitation is not a good idea?

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Very few Matt… If your pain persists, an X-ray and exam is worth it. Usual cause of pain in this region is a rotator cuff strain.

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  24. Reply Andrew T says:


    I play tennis routinely. Lately, I have felt shoulder discomfort which has kept me from playing- slight dead arm, shoulder popping. When I do ground strokes I feel the popping and I try to stay away from overhead serves because that’s when I feel the majority of the pain. I saw an orthopedic and he said it is most likely the rotator cuff – X Rays showed no issues but never got MRI. I have been doing shoulder therapy with light weights for a month. The dead arm has subsided but the clicking is still present. I was thinking about taking vitamins to help with the joints. Do you have any suggestions on vitamins for joint pain? Suggestions for anti-inflammatory – Ibuprofen or Aleve? I just want to get back to playing tennis competitively.

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Andrew.. Clicking is not always unusual in the aging shoulder. Especially one that has been active in competitive sports. If your pain has subsided and all you are left with us the clicking then you can likely return to playing tennis. If your pain persists despite therapy and rest then an MRI or ultrasound would be useful to assess the integrity of your rotator cuff. There are no vitamins that I am aware of that will aide the clicking.

  25. Reply Jackson G says:

    Hi there,
    I’m a 15 year old male and I haven’t had any shoulder injuries. However, I’ve been able to pop my shoulder joint since I was very young, between the ages of 7 and 9 I’d say I started. Now I can pop it painlessly and sometimes I feel like I have to, or otherwise it feels out of place or annoying. I used to throw a lot between pitching in spring and summer, football in fall, and basketball in winter but now the only major throwing I do is football. I feel like I can throw a football really well and the shoulder isn’t hindering that. But after I throw maybe ten balls the shoulder feels suddenly like it’s moved out of place and brings me into excruciating pain. Is this something for concern or just an annoyance that will have to be dealt with because I can pop my shoulder.

    Thank You,

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Jackson.. This sounds like you have instability of your shoulder. In your case it might be due to loose ligaments which are the structures which normally hold a shoulder together. I would recommend you see an Orthopedist who specializes in shoulders.
      Good luck
      Howard luks

  26. Reply Stacey says:


    My 16 year old son plays football and was lifting weights (bench pressing) when he felt his shoulder pop out and then back in when he got up (on more than one occasion). He progressively had pain and weakness in this shoulder and eventually was unable to lift anymore. In addition, he was practicing in the Running back position and when he was blocking, the shield went up and under his armpit pushing his arm up and back and caused more damage. The trainer (who is a sports physical therapist) tried to do exercises with him and they were not helping. Took him to an Ortho doc and had an Athrogram MRI done. Found a posterior labral tear (described on a clock, from 6 to 12, for size). Is that a substantial tear? The ortho doc wants to do labral tear repair feeling that therapy will not help the instability of his shoulder. What are your thoughts?

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Stacey …
      Your son is “complaining of” symptoms consistent with instability – where the shoulder is sliding out of place. People with posterior instability (your son) – where the shoulder slides out the back of the shoulder often feel a clunk or pop as the shoulder slides out, and then notice that the shoulder will reduce or slide back in on its own. On the contrary, people with anterior instability – where the shoulder slides out in front many times will need to be seen in an emergency room to put the shoulder back into place.

      The size of the tear doesn’t really matter much… it’s your son’s symptoms and complaints that matter more. Some people will have a “large” tear with no problems, and others will have a “small” tear with significant complaints and symptoms.

      From what you have given me it seems that your son would likely benefit from a labral repair – assuming it is performed well, and rehabilitated properly. Make sure you see someone who performs a number of these… they can be tricky. Also be sure you clearly understand the other options (PT, change of sports, etc), the risks of surgery, the post surgical regimen and the length of time your son will be out of sports… and the risk of failure with return to certain sports.

      I wish you and your son the best.
      Howard Luks

  27. Reply Beatrice says:

    Hi. I’m 22 years old, and for the past eight or nine years, I’ve had off and on popping and clicking in my left shoulder. It’s generally not painful, although it often aches in cold/humid weather, or when I’ve overexerted myself. When I perform any exercise that involves lifting weights over my head (no matter how light), there is a more obvious clicking that, while not painful, exactly, makes my shoulder feel weak, and as though it could become painful easily.
    I suppose my question is, is this a cause for concern?

    • Reply Mike says:

      Hey, Im 24 and Im having the same problem on my right shoulder. The clicking make it impossible for me to do some of shoulder excercises, especially chest dips. And for some reasons, it related to my right chest muscle when I was doing chest dips.

      Is it normal or should I stop doing chest dips? I’ve been doing calisthenics for a while.

      • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

        If you have significant pain during a dip or press due to clicking or popping in the shoulder I would consider holding off… if you symptoms persist, have an Orthopedist evaluate you.
        Good Luck !

  28. Reply Will says:

    Hi, I was diagnosed 10 months ago with shoulder impingement. An x-ray was normal.
    Pain was intermittent during this time with some days and weeks of low or no pain.
    NSAIDs never helped with pain. I only had day time pain, and no night time pain.
    In the past month, my pain worsened somewhat with an increased number of consecutive bad days.
    My orthopedic doctor examined me last month and reconfirmed his
    diagnosis. He said my strength was good. He told me to do Theraband internal, external, and rowing exercises at home using a red theraband. I did 15 reps of each exercise twice a day and felt fine
    while doing the exercises. But, after a few days my shoulder pain became constant during the day, with pain during the night, with the adfitional symptom of shoulder cracking sounds when waking up in the morning and after doing gentle pendulum exercises. I noticed two very small bruises on my upper arm. I have some pain on raising and lowering my arm, and an increased pain on the slightest movement of my arm. I began taking Naproxen with no benefit after 8 days so far. Ice does not help. A warm shower helps reduce pain. My pain is throughout the shoulder and upper arm with some back of the shoulder pain and some occasional biceps pain. My pain is constant during the day and rest helps, but does not eliminate the pain. I have more pain at night now.

    I assume my impingement has worsened. Maybe I have a partial rotator cuff tear?
    I have a follow up appointment with my doctor in two weeks. What would you recommend? An MRI? Cortisone? A longer trial on Naproxen?
    My doc has previously told me he does not give cortisone for impingement. He also is reluctant to
    do an MRI because “he treats the patient, not the MRI” and says an MRI could show lots of things.
    Thank you!

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Your doctor is correct… an MRI could show many things, depending on your age. But if an MRI is utilized to confirm suspicions in a patient with worsening symptoms despite adhering to the regimen — then it might be time to see what that MRI shows. Another reason to proceed with an MRI is the bruising… not typical for patients with rotator cuff related discomfort.

      Good Luck ..

  29. Reply Matthew says:

    I have had my shoulder popping for four or five years now and it seems to be getting worst even though there is no pain. If I take my right arm and make a large windmill motion it will pop from halfway between straight down and straight back until it is straight back. I am 23 and played outfield in high-school and do not remember it starting to pop after anything in particular. Is it a concern just because of how long it has been occurring? Is there anything I should do to help it heal or to prevent further injury?

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Matthew.. it might be worth seeing an Orthopedist to see if you have posterior instability, where the shoulder slides out the back. Persistent popping is a common complaint in patients who have this.

      Good Luck

  30. Reply Stuart Hayward says:

    Hi there,

    I am a marathon river kayaker and long-distance swimmer. I regularly paddle 40km per week and swim up to 3km per day. I have been having huge problems with my left arm and shoulder over the past 2 years ever since I started kayaking more seriously. Whenever I train for a big race my left arm will, after some months, tense up and tighten….eventually it will crunch…the crunch makes a loud cracking sound, this is followed by months of painful rehabilitation with physio until I can kayak again….now its been 10 months since my last cracking crunch and ime still very very sore….I also have SICK scapula of my left you think that this is caused by SICK scapula??

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Stuart .. I envy your conviction and dedication!
      The shoulder is composed of a ball and a socket… the socket or glenoid are part of the scapula. If the scapula is not stable or positioned well because of a primary (scapula) problem or a secondary (shoulder related, rotator cuff related) problem then the true shoulder joint will not function properly. Poor scapula mechanics are the cause of a significant number of issues in patients who present with shoulder pain. The snapping, or popping can be coming from the rotator cuff, labrum or beneath the scapula as well. I good exam, proper imaging and perhaps selective lidocaine injections can help you and your doctor determine what the source of the problem is. Unless the inciting pathology is addressed, the secondary issues will never subside.
      Howard Luks

  31. Reply Austin says:

    So I am a baseball player and I’ve had tightness in the front of my shoulder for a while and my it pops when i keep my arm down and move just the joint in a forward circular motion. I’ve been to an orthopedists and physical therapy within the last month and am no longer going tot therapy but my arm still is tight and uncomfortable in the front when I throw.

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      In throwers and overhead athletes, labral tears are high on the list of reasons why. Other more unusual causes can be the biceps, as well as subtle anterior instability.

  32. Reply Lita says:

    My shoulder has been hurting for about 3 years now. At first it was so very painful all the time. Now, it hurts out of the blue and is painful to sleep on. The pain is very deep. My shoulder pops and it does hurt but slightly relieves the pain for a few seconds. Now aches when I use it too much, it pops, or aches for quite some time when sleep on it. Do you think exercises will help it to heal?

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Lita.. I would love to answer that yes… but without a formal exam and perhaps an Xray I can not tell you for sure. Many patients will experience relief of pain with therapy and exercise — however it needs to be catered to a specific diagnosis.
      Good Luck

  33. Reply Rachel says:

    Hi, I am 22year old and I have pain in my right shoulder. I dislocated it when I was 1 went ti the emergency room and all the gave me was a sling. It seems. That the pain is getting worse and it keeps on dislocating when im doing simple things. I usted to be able to work out and lift 135lbs+ in weights for over an hour and now I can’t even lift five pounds with out being in exterme pain it feels like if I was trying to lift a car. I constantly have to ceack it in all types of directions to relieve the pain. And sometimes I feels the pain or numbness all the way down to my fingers. Its becoming a real problem I sometimes push on my rib cage to crack it. I can’t even sit down in the same position for too long, even while driving I feel the pain on my shoulder blade and ribs. Cracking it usually temporarily relieves thebpain, but im worried that I might be doing more harm than good. I am tired of living in constant pain.What do you think I should do. I am desperate and want to fix the problem before it gets worse. Thanks in advance!

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Rachel… If your shoulder remains unstable and keeps dislocating after it was reduced in an emergency room you really should see an Orthopedic Shoulder doctor soon. There are many different reasons why your shoulder remains unstable. The treatment for each will vary. Good Luck to you.
      Howard Luks

  34. Reply Greg says:

    I sustained an injury 4-5 years ago which tore, what I think from Googling, were the trapezoid muscles in my shoulders and was eventually (as far as I’m aware) solved with a chiropractor’s help. But bad posture brought me to a registered massage therapist with hopes to fix a certain other issue. That hasn’t been as lucky, as the pain still can persist but after just a few visits months ago and some posture advice, it’s not as severe as it used to be (it used to literally keep me from standing). Now ever since I’ve been watching my posture more closely, I’ve got a horrible snapping in my shoulder. Sometimes when I lift above my head it snaps, sometimes when I lift below my head it snaps, sometimes I seemingly don’t even do anything and I still get this snapping. No matter what it’s painful. It’s not audible but it’s incredible painful when it happens and I’m worried it could cause me to hurt myself, as throughout my day or week I do enough lifting above my head to have this as a concern that the pain will cause me to drop what I lift. anyway, what could be causing this and where would you suggest I go next? Chiropractor, registered massage therapist, family doctor? Other?

  35. Reply gail says:


    I finally got n2 an ortho sports doc yesterday after about 2 months of severe night pain in the shoulder. I noticed it first at night while laying on it. Then when i went to grab a gallon of milk almost dropped it. Im a stay at home mom but volunteer as a Chaplain at a local hospital so my job isn’t that demanding. Last year after a foot surgery twice – once was with crtches n busted front teeth the pther is with a walker as my freind let me borrow one with wheels and a seat, my youngest daughter was pushing me at church she didnt make it up the ramp n i fell on my back, ended up fracturing tailbone- who knew a year later i would have a labreal hip tear that would be addressed.

    My Doc say i have an impingement in the shoulder that i hit, he gave me a cortizone shot and so far all it has done is bring the intense pain down to a numbing pain in the shoulder, but i also have back back the shoulder baldes and like the side of my neck on the clavical he say that the one on neck he isnt concerned about. Should he be. And why is there a catching in my arm when it goes up and not down, it coninually pops, depending on what im doing sometimes it can be real loud.

    Somedays can do stuff normal not having any problems pick up stuff but that is few an far in between. I even have a hard time just raising my hand in worship. Did i forget to mention that i’ve had R.A. now for 17 yrs and im only 42. Will the pt that im supposed to do 1 day a week help at all in my situation? Am still doing pt – an pt guy gave me some siple rotations to do relaxing my arm n up n down movements but they just bring me to tears, but doc say he want me to c his pt guys…. what do you think is the best route. Sometimes warmth on the shoulder or ice help but not for long. Im just curios of your opinion in the matter. Thanks. Gail

  36. Reply rosco says:

    Eight or so years ago my right shoulder started popping when rotating clock wise. As the years passed pain and soreness started in addition to the popping. Now my shoulder when extended forward with something small in my hand is getting sore. I can not throw a ball or Frisbee very many times, and I am getting pain when trying to lift something small with my arm extended. I have an appointment to see a doc next week. what do you think is going on?

    Rosco age 31

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Hi Rosco…
      The pain/popping can be coming from many different parts of the shoulder… including the rotator cuff, the bursa, the labrum and the biceps tendon. Without examining you in is hard to say which might be the culprit.
      Howard Luks

  37. Reply Jennifer says:

    I have never had a shoulder injury that I know off, but I do have this weird popping or clicking, not sure how to explain it, noise in my shoulder. I can feel and hear it best when (and I’m going to try to explain this as good as I can) I hold my elbow in a 90degree angle, then move my elbow up to the height of my shoulder (that already gives a soft clicking noise). Then when I move my hand up, so rotating my shoulder (in the position you normally show off your arm muscles), then that whole movement causes several clicking noises and a big pop at the end.
    I’ve had this for quite some time, at first not even being painful, but when I sleep my arm seems to lock or shift, I don’t know, but when I wake up my shoulder is sore and sometimes I need to pop it hard to get it back working. And in time, the popping/clicking has become more painful, and I also feel it when I lift heavy things (and then it’s painful as well).
    And then last year I underwent surgery in my knee, because (this is even harder to explain, sorry) there was something in my knee, like a tiny string of..tissue I think, that babies have and later go away, but it was still there, so that was causing a clicking noise and pain in my knee.
    I’m very glad that my knee is okay, but my shoulder isn’t, and I’m afraid that it’s either the same thing, or something that I can’t easily fix, and that I have to get surgery again. Then again, I do want it solved because it hurts and when my arm feels locked it’s annoying too.
    I have made an appointment with my doctor in the hospital already, but it’s not until a few months, and I’m making myself scared (probably for nothing).
    Should I get it checked and what do you think?

  38. Reply Nametravis says:

    Dr. Luks,
    my son is almost 11 and plays baseball. Recently he complained of a popping kind of on the tip of his shoulder blade when he throws. He said he first hurt it last week while throwing a tennis ball against the stairs inside our house. (he likes to practice catching the rebounding tennis ball with his glove) He has been taking weekly pitching lessons for just over a year and has never compainled of any arm fatigue. I know a former MLB pitcher who looked at a video of him pitching and said he has very good form and throwing motion, for what thats worth. i found out about his shoulder yesterday when he was warming up for a lesson. i cancelled his lesson and held him out of his teams later practice. today he says he feels fine. should i let him resume practice or hold him out for more rest, or take him to a specialist.? Thanks for any reply and for your offering your opinion to others.

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Without examining your son, I couldn’t comment on why it’s snapping – and thus whether or not he can return.
      At 11 he is starting to to take pitching seriously at a VERY young age. I take seriously any complaints of pain in a child throwing. The downside can be significant if an injury is missed. Good Luck!

  39. Reply Ryan Honomichl says:

    I am 19 years old and I am currently going through a shoulder injury. I love lifting weights at the gym. The other day I was doing a military shoulder press with dumbells, well when I had the dumbells in the air above my head one of them went backwards and took my arm with it and I heard a lot of cracking and tearing noices in my shoulder during the accident. I was surprised after that I am still able to use my shoulder with out much pain but now it clicks and pops randomly throughout the day and sometimes it’s painful and sometimes it’s just annoying. I am also trying to stretch it out and I hear loud pops during my stretches. I was wondering what kind of shoulder injury I am going through and what the best treatment would be. Most of my pain is in the front part of my shoulder

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Hi Ryan… the description you give can cause a number of injuries. They include the labrum and the ligaments inside the shoulder. If your pain and popping persist for a short while I would see a shoulder specialist.
      Good Luck

  40. Reply Matthew says:

    hello, my names matt and i had surgery on my shoulder because of football, someone was in the air and i tried pushing them while they were in the air and my shoulder just fell dead and i could barely feel it and also when i tried blocking someone at an awkward angle and i heard a pop but it was painful. I got it checked out and it was a bony bankart tear. Got surgery on it and now i have been actually lifting now and no more physical therapy. Ok, so before the surgery i would crack my shoulder because there was a relief from it, there was no pain at all in cracking it. All the stress in my shoulder would seem to build up and i would just push on my shoulder and crack it. Now, it’s been about 5 almost 6 months after the surgery and i’ve been feeling pretty good, but now i’m lifting with football and it’s intense and after the first week i cracked my shoulder again(i haven’t cracked it in a long time, maybe just pressure in the joints) but i got kinda scared that maybe i reinjured it or something, even though i didn’t have much pain. I would just like to have a word from you as reassurance because honestly i’m scared and i DO NOT want to go through another surgery, if you want to ask me a more specific question, please do, i’d be glad to answer them, thank you.

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Matthew… cracks and popping after surgery might not be an issue. Many of our joints will do that after an injury and/or surgery. However, sometimes … just sometimes that sound can mean that something came loose. To put your mind at ease.. if your symptoms persist, see your Orthopedist to be checked out.

      Good Luck

  41. Reply James Russo says:

    Dr. Luks,
    I am a year after surgery for a shoulder labrum tear, a freak accident falling off a kayak onto a dock, unable to swim and had a hard time getting out of the water. i still want to do activities on the ocean and often find myself out alone however im a but worried now about my shoulder popping out in the water again and not being able to swim,,i know this is common among surfing injuries, do you know or have you heard of any way of popping a dislocated shoulder back in underwater? if need be for survival is it possible for one to massage it back into place? sorry for the odd question i just could not find any information on this anywhere, feel like im the only one with this issue

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Great question James… Has your shoulder dislocated since the surgery? Does it feel unstable? After surgery… assuming all went well you should be ok. That being said, failures do occur. I am not aware of a means of putting your shoulder back into place while floating in the water and hanging onto your kayak. Sorry I couldn’t help.

      Howard Luks

  42. Reply Name Neal says:

    Thanksgiving 2006 I was sledding with my family and crashed, falling heavily on top of my shoulder. I thought at first I’d dislocated it and tried to raise my arm and couldn’t. I had it xray’d and it was negative. Eventually the massive bruising drained into my chest. It never improved and I couldn’t use the arm to throw (Fortunately I can throw with my left) What alarmed me was when I saw the same Dr. to xray my heels to diagnose heel spurs in my achilles. He diagnosed it spur free, despite the obvious x ray. I got a second opinion and eventually had a Calcaneus Reduction done to remove three spurs. That makes me have doubts about my 2006 diagnosis. The shoulder is unstable when sleeping and reaching out or bringing my arm down has weakness and pops. It’s fine when I lift anything with the arm at my side or have my elbow tucked in. But little things like reaching up to adjust the rearview mirror can be a mistake.

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Neal … Sounds like your shoulder might be unstable. While there are many reason why that occurs, a labral tear is the most common reason. Time to see a good shoulder doc…
      Good Luck
      Howard Luks

  43. Reply Jani says:

    My shoulder makes a noise when my arm at my side and the forearm is bent at a 90 degree angle and I am doing external rotation. People mention clicking, I think it sounds more like gravel. Nothing catches or pops and no pain. Maybe more like a bunch of quick tiny pops? I can hear it. Should I be worried? I’m only 56 and just had my left shoulder replaced (degenerative disease, chondromylacia, severe arthritis and inflammation (and yes, I had pain in that one – for years thought it was a frozen shoulder). .

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Hi Jani…
      With a history of arthritis in one shoulder, it’s possible that it is in the other shoulder as well. As the arthritis (loss of cartilage) sets in, the surfaces become rough and you might appreciate a grinding sound.
      An X-ray and an exam should help with the diagnosis… if you develop pain.

      Howard Luks

  44. Reply Jessi says:

    Hello Dr, Howard,

    When I was 15 years old (I’m 20 now) I slipped and sprained my right shoulder. I went to the hospital to get it check out because i wouldn’t move it and they said it was a sprain and told me to wear a sling until its better. I did that but after my injury when ever I want to grab something really fast it pop put of place and i cant move it for a few seconds then it pop back. After it feels so sore so i try not to use it for the rest of the day. However, two weeks ago the pain got worse. I was trying to grab something again that was taken from me and it popped again but the pain didn’t last over night like it always did, instead it was sore for a few days. I was still able to move my arm just fine but it was a little painful. Last night, it happened again and when it popped i had my arm at 90degree angle and i was unable to move it for two minutes (this was unusual for me) I was unable to move it and my hand was shaking. It popped back in by itself but it is very very sore. Again, I can move my arm i don’t feel sharp pain but it is more painful than i usually experience and can barely use it. I’m planning to get it checked out, but What could be causing it? is it serious?


    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Jessi… Time to see a shoulder doctor… the more times your shoulder dislocates, the more the ligaments stretch. This makes it easier and easier for your shoulder to dislocate… and it can DECREASE the results of surgery — or another way to put it.. increase the failure rate of surgery.

      Howard Luks

  45. Reply Scott says:

    Hi Howard,

    I had decompression on my left shoulder a year ago and since the surgery I have occasional soreness in the joint and it feels really tight. I have gone through all of the exercises but something still seems off. What I notice is that my should seems to pop a lot, especially when I’m pulling it across my chest to stretch.

    I’m planning to go back in and speak with the Ortho, but wanted to get a second opinion.

    Thank you.


  46. Reply Alex Nichol says:

    Dr. Howard,

    Hello I had shoulder surgery 9 days ago to remove the end of my clavicle, treating me for DCO. I think the doctor took out about a centimeter. I felt great after the surgery, and I have been gaining more and more range of motion every day. I wasn’t having any problems until this morning when I was using a leg press machine. If you know what one of these looks like, there are handles on the side to grip. I was gripping the handles very tightly on one of my reps and my shoulder felt like inside bones were rubbing against each other or something. Now every time I lift my arm over head my shoulder clicks near the end of my collar bone, and my collar bone is very sore. This is the worst my shoulder has felt since surgery and I am hoping I did not harm anything that my doctor fixed. Do you think this I caused any serious damage? I am really concerned about the clicking because it is somewhat painful and before doing this I could move my arm without any clicking at all.



    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Tough to comment Alex… but you were progressing extremely well… might just be a minor setback. It will take weeks for the inflammation to fully subside. If you are concerned you can always check back with your doc.

  47. Reply Evelyn says:

    I’m 14 and I can pop both shoulders in and out of their sockets. I have been able to do this for about a year. I was first able to do this after I woke up one morning with alot of pain in my right shoulder. I thought I slept on it funny and I took Advil and it seemed to help. I then realized I could pop it in and out which made it feel better for awhile, but actually made my shoulder looser. I went to 6 weeks of physical therapy, but that didn’t help. So I’m not really sure what to do.
    I feel like I’m an old lady both my shoulders pop out of socket and the tendons in my legs and feet snap against my bones.

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Evelyn.. this is not an uncommon story. The answer is usually more physical therapy… 6 weeks doesn’t sound like enough for someone who likely (but not definitely) has multi-directional instability.

  48. Reply katlyn says:

    I’m 14 and I’ve been playing softball for 9 years. Since i was about 10 my shoulder would hurt really bad. And it continued like that until last year. My dad took me to the doctor and she said to not throw for 4 weeks and got to physical therapy for 6 weeks. After that I had very little pain. Then it slowly started coming back. Last week my parents to me to the chiropractor and my shoulder was out of socket and he popped it back in. When I went back to practice I felt every time I threw it got numb. After practice it hurt very bad. Then after a couple days the pain kinda went away. But it still hurts and is like this after every practice but seems like it gets worse. Also there is a lot of popping. Thanks.

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Hi Katlyn… I’m not quite sure why you’re having an issue… although your story seems to imply that you have some form of instability. Maybe due to loose ligaments. I would see your Orthopedist again.. and they might want you to try therapy again. Gotta keep up with those exercises.

  49. Reply Chuck says:

    I seperated my shoulder (level 1) in October. Was still having pain in the shoulder 2 and half months later. Had a MRI done and that came back clean. Well after 4 months saw my Ortho again because still having pain when I reach out in front of me and my shoulder clicks all the time even taking a breath. He suggests doing PT. I have been doing very light weigh exercises and motion exercises. Do you think the PT will help or is there something going on in the shoulder that might have been missed on the MRI and X-ray?

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Is it your AC Joint that’s still bothering you and clicking?

      • Reply Chuck says:

        I don’t think its the AC joint. When I first had the injury I had considerable amount of pain for about 2 weeks. That pain has gone away. The shoulder nowjust always feels sire and if I reach my arm out in front of me to reach for something I usually get a sharpe knife type of pain that runs to the top of my bicep. The clicking is almost constant. laying down and it clicks with each breath. Swing my arm back and forth or try to touch my other shoulder and it clicks and pops. Benn 4 and a half months since the injury, is this common for a level 1? Would PT help or is there something else going on in the shoulder?

        • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

          The AC Joint can be damaged after a Grade I separation. That could cause clicking with the activities you describe. Other possibilities include the biceps tendon. PT is not very helpful with mechanical problems — especially those that relate to the AC joint.

  50. Reply Karla says:

    Hi i am a 16 year old swimmer and i swim about twice a day and practice is about an hour and half each time (but since my season has calmed down i only swim about once a day currently) all throughout the season and now i would get random burning sensations in my right shoulder(my dominant arm) when i wouldn’t be swimming. i also have a popping/snapping happen what feels like next to/behind the right scapula but its not painful.

  51. Reply Rotator cuff injuries and recovery | Physiotherapy and Recovery.... says:

    […] may have weakness which is secondary to pain (and you simply do not want to use the arm).   Snapping or popping in the shoulder may occur because the rotator cuff is no longer smooth,   Patients with […]

  52. Reply craig middlemiss says:

    hi ive had problems with shoulder for many years started when i was given a very hard bed my shoulder would pop during night sometimes waking me from the pain then i started getting pain at work when i threw a ball very painful like someone punched me in the arm, shoulder started popping ,i get loud pop and lots of pain when try lift any thing heavy docter doesnt know what happening had x ray and antiflam tablets can u help

  53. Reply Bruce says:

    I came upon your website this morning while searching for shoulder pain and would like to thank you in advance for using your time and being so informative. I’m 65 and always try to be extremely careful but still managed to slip on icy steps and take a tumble. I landed on my right shoulder. 3 days later it’s starting to feel much better and I can start to reach for things, etc. but still don’t have full range. I’m hearing some snapping/clicking sounds when I lift my arm up to reach for something. Will this go away as the healing process continues or, because of my age, will it continue. Thanks.

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Thanks for the kind remarks… If you are concerned.. an exam by a shoulder specialist can put your mind at ease. Snapping and clicking after an injury isn’t rare… and isn’t necessarily associated with a tear. Remember, given your age, there was a good chance you had a small degenerative tear prior to your fall.

      Good Luck
      Howard Luks

  54. Reply Ricky says:

    Hello I came across this while I was searching shoulder popping. I am a weightlifter and workout 3 days a week. My favorite exercise is the bench press. I notice when I rotate my arm a certain way my shoulder pops but I do NOT feel pain nor do I feel pain when I lift my arm to reach for something could this painless popping be the start of a problem or as long as there is no pain is it fine?

    Thank you in advance for your reply

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Ricky… as I mention, popping and snapping is not unusual. If you are concerned or if it starts to bother you then you should see your orthopedist. Popping does not necessarily mean that something is starting to go wrong with your shoulder.

      Howard Luks

  55. Reply Bailey says:

    I had labral surgery 4 years ago and recently I was in a wreck…My shoulder now clicks and has great pain but the surgeon said he is not a “magician” and this is how it will be forever since my shoulder was previously injured. Is this true…is it just a pain most people deal with?

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Sounds like you need a new doctor… they don’t have to be a magician… they just need to care.

      Howard Luks

  56. Reply bailey says:

    Thank you! You’re right.

  57. Reply Amanda says:

    Hello Doc!

    I am an ex-gymnast (14 years), softball player and overall athletic person who still works out frequently (I am 35). I am also a police officer and frequently struggle with people on the job, lift heavy items and the like. For about the past 6 months I have noticed my left shoulder starting to bother me. I can no longer reach back and scratch my back, or lay propped up on the shoulder for very long, or do things like brush my hair comfortably. I went back to working out today after giving it a good 3-4 weeks to rest but found myself in horrid pain. When doing the shoulder press, for example, I was barely able to press 20 pounds with my left ( I normally press 60 on each). When I did do the 20 with my left it took every bit of me to “push through” the 3 sets of 10. I did note a loud popping a couple time with the presses also. I am trying to get into a orthopedic surgeon but was wondering if I’m overreacting and maybe it just needs a bit of time to heal or does this sound like an injury that will need more than that? The orthopedic can’t see me for another 2 weeks. I am concerned with the lack of strength, the loss of flexibility and the overall general pain that comes along with sleeping in the wrong position or reaching at the wrong angle. Any advice?

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      HI Amanda… Loss of motion is a common side effect of many conditions in the shoulder. It can be a primary problem too (Frozen Shoulder). Sounds like you should lay off the shoulder exercises until you get in to see your Orthopedist. Good Luck !
      Howard Luks

      • Reply Abby says:

        Hi, I was in a serious car accident a week ago an ever since I have been having a lot of pain and very loud popping noise in my left shoulder. And it is like a constant noise. It makes it when I let my arm hang down at my side. When I do that it feels as if it is no longer in the socket. So I rotate and/or shrug my shoulder or just raise my arm above my head and then it makes the loud popping noise. When I say it’s constant I mean it feels like I literally have to do this 24 hours a day because otherwise I feel extreme pain and stiffness in my shoulder (towards the front) if I try and pull open a door with that arm it feels like it is being pulled out and then coming back in. It wakes me up in the middle of the night. Any idea what this could be?

        • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

          Hi Abby… I’m sorry you are suffering. The only way I could be of assistance is if I could examine you… otherwise it’s not possible to make a recommendation, diagnosis, etc…
          I hope you understand. Time to see a “top” shoulder doc. Where are you?
          Howard Luks

  58. Reply Riley Garrett says:

    Hi Doc!
    I’m a 17 year girl running out of options. I haven’t had any injures of my right shoulder I’m aware of but it pops and grinds for some reason. I’ve been to the doctors, orthopedic surgeon, and even physical therapy. Nothing seems to help just makes the pain worsen. I used tk cheer and tumble for a long time ( since 9 y.o. ) but i cant anymore since it hurts to put a lot of weight on the shoulder. No body can figure out what’s wrong and I’m afraid soon my parent will think I’m lying. The pain is so bad I cry, cant sleep at night sometimes, it locks up and I get back pains and feels like shocks through rib cage. The griding is on the back of my right shoulder. Please help!

  59. Reply Halie says:

    Hi Dr Luks,,

    I hope you can advise me whether or not I should be wary of medical advice I’ve been given. I had a fall down a few steps around a year ago and sought help from a Chriopractor and a physical therapist for persistent stiffness in my shoulders and neck. The chiropractor was able to stop my left arm being so locked up, but it hurt terribly and the shoulder has hurt ever since.

    I was told by the physical therapist that it was chronic muscle pain from postural issues forming muscle trigger points. An ultrasound of my right shoulder revealed bursitis, and a cortisone injection corrected that. The left shoulder has only become worse over time. Xray and ultrasound have not showed anything. My Dr suspected a labral tear and sent me to an orthopaedic surgeon.

    The surgeon said, without doing more than Apley’s scratch test and getting me to resist his pushing against my arm, that I have whiplash and chronic weakness causing my inability to raise my arm forwards or to the side. Sometimes, I can raise my arm, but it’s not without discomfort and it’s usually only after resting with heat applied for a few hours. Sometimes I go weeks without being able to raise the arm.

    My Dr says a small labral tear might be why I can raise it sometimes (the torn tissue moving into the joint, then freeing) but that a small labral tear won’t always show up on an mri and that I might need a surgeon to look inside. I’m confused. If there was some kind if tear, would I ever be able to raise my arm? The physical therapist says no. Is it likely to be visible on mri? While all these health professionals spend time disagreeing with each other, this continues to worsen. Left clavicle is swollen and tender; the top of the tricep near my shoulder joint is always sore; my shoulder clicks and catches; I have tingling in my hand.

    I’ve no idea whether I what I should be spending my money on – invasive diagnostics, MRIs or physical therapy. I’d really appreciate your opinion on whether you’ve see any tear patients who could sometimes raise their arm but not always. In your experience, do tears usually show up on mri with contrast dye?


    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      A second opinion … and a quality 3T MRI read by a radiologist who specializes in reading musculo-skeletal studies.

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      It does not sound like a solid diagnosis has been made. A small labral tear would be visible on a quality MRI, and more important, a small labral tear is not likely to lead to these symptoms.
      Perhaps yet another opinion by a shoulder specialist is in order?
      Howard Luks

  60. Reply Lisa says:

    Both of my shoulders started making popping/grinding sounds when I was 13 (I’m now 56). Pain is not associated with the popping, but I often have pain in my upper arms and at times have trouble lifting my arms. Now I’m having trouble with my fingers going numb when my arms are down and/or driving, reading, sleeping, etc. I’ve had cortisone shots in both shoulders in the past which helped for a while. I’ve seen several doctors, but no one has said what’s the cause or what I can do about it. This is something I’ve just managed to deal with through the years, but it’s getting worse. What type of specialist would be best to see? Would an MRI be helpful?

    • Reply Howard J. Luks, MD says:

      Lisa … It would be very unusual for shoulder issues to result in hand numbness. I would talk with your Orthopedist about their thoughts on your neurological symptoms.
      For the shoulder… typical non-surgical treatments include observation, anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, and injections. I would explore which option your surgeon and you feel is best for you given your complaints and examination.

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