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Shoulder Pain and Popping when Lifting Arm

Your shoulder is the most flexible joint in your body. It’s structured for maximum flexibility, which is why it’s prone to more injury than others. Shoulder pain is one of the main reasons patients seek out physical therapy, with 30% of people experiencing shoulder pain at some point in their life. If you’re experiencing shoulder pain and popping when lifting your arm, this blog may help you.

It’s important to note that if you are experiencing shoulder pain and popping when lifting your arm, this is a sign of injury and we suggest seeing a physical therapist right away.

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Shoulder popping and pain

Shoulder Pain and Popping when Lifting Arm

Sometimes moving your shoulder can cause a cracking or popping noise at your shoulder. That sound is called crepitus. Crepitus is often related to joint damage or tiny bubbles formed in the fluid around the joint.

Crepitus isn’t always painful. Your tendons and bones will make a cracking sound even when they’re working perfectly. However, if it’s accompanied by pain, it can be a sign of an injury or possible health condition.

If you notice the pain and popping in your shoulder is following a recent injury, this may be the result of a muscle tear, strain, or fracture that needs to be addressed. Even if your shoulder feels fine when you’re not moving it, if you’re reminded of it with movement in certain directions, you should see a doctor.

3 most common injuries for shoulder pain

Rotator Cuff. Your rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that surround your shoulder joint. This type of injury is most common in a sports-related activity. This can include pitching a baseball or softball, swimming, or weightlifting.

With a rotator cuff injury, your shoulder blade will pinch your rotator cuff muscles and cause an injury. This can happen over time as well. Your rotator cuff muscles will swell and get inflamed. If you choose to ignore this, your muscle can eventually tear.

Symptoms include pain in your shoulder. The pain will increase as you raise your arm and eventually when you’re not even moving it. A clicking or popping noise is common as well.

AC Joint. The Acromioclavicular (AC) joint is where the very top of your shoulder blade meets your collarbone. When the ligaments connecting this part of your shoulder blade and collarbone are torn, you have a separated shoulder. This type of injury is most common when you have been hit hard in the shoulder, or have fallen hard on an open palm.

Symptoms include a bump on your shoulder where it’s separated and pain in your shoulder.

Dislocated Shoulder. A dislocated shoulder is the result of the top of your arm bone slips out of its socket. This type of injury is most common when enduring a hard hit to the shoulder or rotating your shoulder joint too far.

Symptoms include pain in your shoulder, weakness in your arm, swelling, and bruising. To put it lightly, you know when your shoulder is out of place. Intense pain is followed by a loud pop.


As you have been strongly suggested to seek help from a professional, there are some preventative measures you can take daily.

Additionally, if your pain isn’t too intense and the popping continues, these home remedies might be all you need.

Related Topic: Check out our quick and easy at-home PT videos

Foam Roller

As you may already know, the foam roller is one of our favorite tools. It’s affordable and easy to purchase for home use. Foam rollers are beneficial for various pain treatment techniques, preventative measures, and stretches by stimulating soft tissue.

Often our posture is a cause for shoulder pain. If you’re on your phone, reading a book, or typing on a laptop, be aware of hunching or shoulders moving forward. Just by being in this position, your muscles are at a mechanical disadvantage, allowing for pain and weakness to increase.

The benefit of a foam roller for shoulder pain is to stretch your shoulder muscles out so you can move to each appropriate zone. To see a quick and simple video demonstrating how to properly stretch your shoulders to decrease shoulder pain, CLICK HERE!


As mentioned above, posture is a common cause of shoulder pain. Try to be aware of how your posture is while driving, while working at a desk, or reading. Good posture can sometimes cure chronic shoulder pain for some people.

Cold Compress

If your shoulder is injured, cold compress or icing the affected area can reduce inflammation. This has been known to also numb pain, reduce swelling, and promote a faster healing process. More often than not, a cold compress to a muscle or bone injury is almost always better than no treatment at all.


To prevent injuries such as the ones listed above, or any future shoulder injury, take an effort in strengthening the muscles connected to and around your shoulder. Slowly add in weights and resistance bands to get a boost on your strength. Additionally, working to improve your range of motion by the use of physical therapy will ensure a healthy, active lifestyle.

Thank you for reading this guide on shoulder pain and popping when lifting your arm. If you have further questions, please give us a call!

published on Wednesday, September 25th, 2019