7 Reasons Why Your Shoulders Popping, Cracking, and Grinding

7 Reasons Why Your Shoulders Popping, Cracking, and Grinding

Are you experiencing shoulder popping, cracking, and grinding?

If so, you’re not alone.

Sometimes moving your shoulder can feel like you’re grinding your bones together.

This sensation is called crepitus, and it’s actually quite common.

People usually experience crepitus at any age, but it’s especially common in older adults.

The main reason that joints pop is not always clear.

But, scientists believe that the popping noise is caused by the release of gas bubbles from the joint cavity.

This gas bubble forms when the joint moves and separates the synovial fluid from the air.

The popping noise is created when these two substances come back into contact with each other.

When there’s no pain associated with these sounds, it’s usually nothing to worry about.

However, if you do experience pain after your shoulders pop or crack, then it’s definitely time to see a doctor.

Having said that…

This article will help you understand the reasons why your shoulders are popping, cracking, and grinding.

Keep reading, and you’ll find out what might be causing this shoulders click, pop, grind, and crack sensation.

Here are seven potential reasons why your shoulder might be popping, cracking, and grinding

1. Labral tears

If you experience shoulder pain with popping and cracking, you might have a labral tear.

The labrum is a ring of cartilage that surrounds the shoulder joint.

It helps keep the ball-and-socket joint in place and also provides stability to the shoulder.

Labral tears are most commonly caused by injury, but they can also be a result of overuse or age.

According to Healthline, “labral tears are often quite painful.”

2. Scapulothoracic bursitis

Another potential cause of shoulder popping, cracking, and grinding sound is scapulothoracic bursitis.

Bursitis is a condition that occurs when the bursa, which is a sac of fluid that cushions your joints, becomes inflamed.

In most cases, you may experience sharp or shooting pain, a popping sound when you move your arms in any direction.

Also, you might feel tenderness or swelling in the upper arm near the shoulder joint.

If you have scapulothoracic bursitis, you’ll likely need to see a doctor for treatment.

3. Impingement syndrome

If your shoulder is popping, cracking, and grinding, it might be due to impingement syndrome.

Impingement syndrome occurs when tendons or bursa become inflamed by the compression of surrounding tissues because of a narrowing in the joint space where movements occur.

This can cause pain with overhead activities such as reaching for something on a high shelf or putting your arms above your head.

Impingement is most commonly caused by injury, but it can also be a result of overuse or age-related wear and tear, says Cleveland Clinic.

If you suspect that you have impingement syndrome, consult with your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

You might need physical therapy to help reduce inflammation and pain.

4. Rotator cuff tear

If you’re experiencing shoulder popping and cracking, it might be a sign of rotator cuff tear.

A rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint.

It helps lift your arm and keep the shoulder stable.

A rotator cuff tear can occur from an injury or from lifting something that is too heavy.

The severity of the tear can vary from person to person, but it might cause pain with certain movements, such as raising your arm over your head or reaching behind you.

For example:

If you have a rotator cuff tear that’s causing pain and popping sounds in your shoulders, it could be difficult to perform everyday tasks such as brushing your hair or reaching for something on the top shelf of a cupboard.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s best to consult with your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Rotator cuff tears often require surgery.

5. Frozen shoulder

If you’re 55 years or older, there’s a good chance that your shoulder popping and cracking is due to a frozen shoulder.

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition that causes pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint.

It occurs when the capsule surrounding the joint becomes inflamed and thickened.

This can limit the range of motion in your shoulder and cause popping and cracking sounds when you move your arm.

Frozen shoulder often goes away on its own, but it might take up to two years.

In some cases, surgery is necessary to release the adhesive capsulitis and restore movement to the shoulder joint.

6. Osteoarthritis

One of the most common causes of shoulder popping and cracking sounds is osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage that covers your bones wears away, which can cause pain in joints such as your hips or knees.

As you get older, it’s more likely that your shoulder joints will experience wear and tear, which can lead to osteoarthritis.

If left untreated, the condition could make movement difficult or even painful in severe cases.

You might also notice stiffness when getting up from a chair after sitting for a long time or popping and cracking sounds when you move your arm.

There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but there are treatments available to help manage pain and improve function.

Talk to your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.

7. Fractures

Another possible cause of shoulder popping and cracking is a fracture.

A fracture is a break in one or more of the bones that make up your shoulder joint.

Fractures can occur from a fall or an accident, or they might be the result of weakened bones due to age or osteoporosis.

In most cases, a fractured shoulder will heal on its own after you have time for the bone to mend and blood flow returns to normal in your arm.

However, there is a risk that the fracture might not heal properly or cause problems with movement over time if it’s not treated.

It’s important for you to consult with your doctor if you’re experiencing shoulder popping and cracking, especially if the pain is severe.

Your doctor will be able to determine the cause of your symptoms and provide treatment options.

How to fix shoulder popping and cracking

If you’re experiencing shoulder popping and cracking, there are a few things that you can do to help relieve the pain and restore movement.

Some of these tips include:

  • Taking breaks from activities that cause discomfort
  • Applying ice or heat compress to the affected shoulder
  • Massage therapy
  • Yoga or stretching exercises
  • Physical therapy
  • Foam roller can help to loosen the muscles and improve range of motion

Consult with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.


There are a number of possible causes, including rotator cuff tears, frozen shoulder, osteoarthritis, and fractures.

All of these conditions could cause popping and cracking sounds in your shoulders.

So you should consult with a doctor to determine the causes and treatment options that are best for you.

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