Shoulder Popping

Shoulder Pain and Popping When Lifting Arm

Many of Miracle Rehab patients seek physical therapy due to shoulder pain and popping while lifting arm. Shoulder stiffness, aches, and injuries are the third most common muscle and joint issue people visit their doctors for, so it's essential to take them seriously.

It's a common problem since the shoulder is the most flexible joint in the body and prone to injuries.

While in some cases, shoulder popping when lifting an arm is entirely benign, if there is pain involved, it is a cause of concern.

There are multiple potential reasons for the pain, from simple things such as poor posture or uncomfortable matters to severe health conditions and injuries.

Let's look into shoulder pain and popping when lifting an arm, the leading causes, how it should be treated, and when to see a specialist such as a physical therapist.

What Causes Shoulder Pain

Shoulder Popping and Pain

Many people notice a clicking or popping sound when lifting their arm. As Healthline explains, the popping feeling called crepitus comes from the part where the joint connects to the top of the arm. Often people report pain, grinding, cracking, warmth, and other mostly uncomfortable sensations.

The popping doesn't always cause pain, and healthy tendons and bones can make that sound.

However, the pain is always the signal of injury or some health condition. If you feel any pain lifting the arm in any direction, you should see a doctor or a physical therapist. Don't know the difference between physiotherapy and physical therapy? Click here to know more.

Shoulder Popping and Pain

Delaying that could cause even more damage to your muscles, tendons and that damage can be irreversible.

You should see a specialist if you can't carry things or use your arm fully, and the shoulder pain persists for a long time and over a few days.

Also, don't hesitate to visit a professional if you notice swelling or significant bruising around your joint or arm; the pain occurs at night or while resting or if you see signs of an infection, including fever, skin redness, and warmth.

Shoulder Injuries That Cause Popping and Pain

Many people ask, "why does my shoulder pop when I lift my arm," and there isn't one definitive answer as there are multiple possible causes.

Let's focus on the reasons for shoulder popping and pain that should be addressed with concern.

Shoulder Injuries That Cause Popping

If you're diagnosed with any of these conditions, you'll be directed to a professional to work on a treatment plan to help you recover.

Impingement. Your bursa and tendons can get irritated and cause pain when shoulder tissue rubs together with the shoulder blade. This happens when performing repetitive movements, e.g., doing sports or working in construction.

Rotator cuff tears. It happens when the tendons in the rotator cuff tear from overuse or heavy overhead lifting.

Labral tears. These tears most commonly happen after an injury when the joint shifts.

Scapulothoracic bursitis. When the fluid-filled sacs in the shoulder called bursa get inflamed, they can cause shoulder popping when lifting the arm and pain.

Osteoarthritis. When bones start rubbing against each other, it shows that the protective cartilage is breaking down, which could cause a popping sound. 

Injury. A common reason that often doesn't get diagnosed is a shoulder injury, so if you feel any pain and her shoulder cracks when lifting your arm, don't wait and get it checked out.

Treatment for Shoulder Pain and Popping When Lifting an Arm

As in most cases, prevention is always better than treatment, so if you're in a risk group for injuries or other health conditions mentioned above, be proactive.

Make sure you're strengthening your shoulder muscles by exercising and lifting weights, swimming, and work on improving your range of motion by living an active life and adding stretches like yoga and Pilates.

You can check out here some easy exercises to treat shoulder pain.

Shoulder Treatment

Also, focus on improving your posture when sitting, driving, working to reduce the strain and discomfort. Poor posture over time may contribute to feeling stiffness and pain in the neck and shoulders, leading to daily discomfort and pain.

If you're already feeling shoulder pain and popping when lifting your arm, different ways can help you, and often, it's best to combine various modalities for the best results.

Many treatments are performed by a professional such as a physical therapist (PT) and complemented by active patient's efforts at home. When you visit your PT, they will create an individual treatment plan with the most suitable modalities for you.

Some of the most common treatments are:

Cold Compress. Icing the affected area can reduce inflammation, numb pain, reduce swelling, and promote a faster healing process.

Foam Roller. It's a great technique to reduce swelling and pain as it stimulates the soft tissue, stretches the shoulder muscles out so there's more space to move.

Physical therapy. It's one of the most effective ways to treat shoulder pain. Your therapist will create a personal plan to target your particular issues and will use different techniques to increase your strength, restore mobility, and help you get to your pre-injury level of activity.

Physical Therapy For Shoulder

Find out the must-ask questions you should ask your physical therapist during the first consultation.

Physical therapy usually includes:

  • Advice and information about how to avoid injury and at-home exercises.
  • Heat therapy allows muscles to relax.
  • Hands-on therapy uses direction-specific pressure on the tissue to help it regain some of its natural mobility.
  • Stretching helps regain the range of motion and increases flexibility
  • ICE therapy helps reduce inflammation and swelling, pain.
  • Ultrasound heats tendons, muscles, and other tissues, improves blood flow, and speeds up the healing process.
  • Electrical stimulation involves electrodes attached to a patient's skin. and is used for both pain relief and functional improvements,
  • Light therapy applies lasers, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and other light sources to injured tissues.

Final Thoughts

Shoulder pain and popping when lifting an arm, shoulder stiffness, and aches can negatively influence the quality of life and should be addressed without delay.

There are many possible causes, and the best course of action is visiting a professional such as a physical therapist to get your diagnosis and create a treatment plan.

Treatment for shoulder pain may include various stretches, hands-on therapy, ultrasound and heat therapy, and learning and applying preventative measures such as proper posture and exercise.

Contact Miracle Rehab Clinic and book an appointment with a professional physical therapist to solve your shoulder pain once and for all.


Miracle Physical Therapy and Massage Center - Warren
3272 E. 12 Mile Rd. #106
Warren, MI 48092
Phone : 586-920-2596
Fax : 586-576-7298

Miracle Physical Therapy and Massage Center - Farmington Hills
30500 Northwestern Hwy. Ste. 316C
Farmington Hills, MI 48334
Phone : 248-539-8781
Fax : 248-539-8940

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