Humans use their arms for a multitude of tasks every day. Most of the time, people are unaware of their shoulder activity unless something changes or causes discomfort in this area. As we age, our muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments tend to lose mobility and strength. Over time, repetitive shoulder motions might accelerate this declining process resulting in strange noises when the shoulder is moved. These noises can include popping sounds. In reality, this type of shoulder noise is fairly common especially in individuals that are older. A person that uses their shoulders repeatedly like in sports often note these symptoms for a variety of reasons.

While unusual noises seeming to come from the shoulder joint are often not serious, there are times that individuals should become concerned. In these situations, it is recommended that the individual contact their medical doctor. There are some easy ways that individuals can help assess and determine if their shoulder issue needs treatment. If the popping sound is not accompanied by pain, it could be a harmless occurrence. However, if there is significant pain and/or discomfort when this clicking sound is heard, it might be cause for concern. Rate any discomfort on a 1 to 10 scale to assess pain severity and to assess whether pain lessens or worsens.

Try to recall if these shoulder symptoms began after a bump, jostle or injury to the area. It doesn’t have to be a huge assault. Another thing to determine is to assess whether there is shoulder pain and popping when lifting arm. This could indicate a rotator cuff injury that requires treatment. This type of injury can occur gradually as the shoulder muscles, attached tendons and ligaments and joint/bones are stressed or overused. These structures are what helps keep your shoulder held into its proper place inside the encapsulated joint. There are some other criteria that can further determine if a rotator cuff injury has occurred.

Most patients will feel a strange weakness as they move their shoulder. This occurs if those supportive structures sustain an injury that allows the ball and socket portions of the shoulder joint to move or “pop” out of place. This injury can occur on the bone, within the joint capsule, along the muscle edges and may affect the area’s tendons and ligaments. This can cause pain and limit the rotation of the shoulder. Often, individuals will have developed this condition after years of smaller area injuries that eventually cause those changes.

Assess whether your arm and/or shoulder feels loose or alternately tight and constricted. Smaller rotator cuff injuries may be treated with slings, arm/shoulder rest, Advil or other discomfort/swelling remedies, heat or ice applications and other measures as determined by an orthopedic specialist or medical doctor. Make note of when symptoms begin and end. Also, write down what you were doing at the time. Popping and clicking sounds from joints like the shoulder can be due to arthritis. Rotator cuff injuries might need surgery.