Shoulder cracking

Find out the most common reasons for cracking in your shoulders.

Shoulder cracking  Shoulder is one of those body parts that indicates with a certain complex of joints and joint movements. The specificity behind these motions represents the variety of injuries that can occur to your shoulder. Probably, there is no such a person, who has never felt shoulder cracking. It can be described as an unpleasant feeling combined with a specific sound. However, it is not a secret to anybody that different people describe in a different way the way this unpleasant discomfort is felt or how it sounds. It is because there are different causes that can be linked to the shoulder cracking.

Generally, scientists divide these cases into two groups: accidental shoulder cracking, which is a single shoulder cracking (including a single sound), and repeated shoulder cracking that lasts for long-term. Let`s disucss the both groups, because they simply show the causes and the ways for treatment, when it comes to shoulder cracking.

Shoulder cracking by accident – individual case

 What is mostly general and common for individual accidental shoulder cracking is that it can be caused by a trauma. A trauma is every injury on the shoulder joint. However, it is no obligatory for this trauma to be a dramatic event like bone breakage, for instance. On the contrary – it might be a normal sense of discomfort some sportsmen or people, who are regularly engaged with physical activity or physical lifestyle in general. For instance, a gym trainer will tell you that if you start lifting weights with no preliminary muscle, joint and bone activation shoulder cracking is a quite normal thing even for those of you, who have rich practice in workouts. If you’re not properly warmed up and hear a crack on the first couple of repetitions, sometimes that’s gas released from the joint, an action called a cavitation, similar to when knuckles are cracked. Resistance exercises can release gas from the shoulder. Don’t worry about this; continue your technique. If you’re doing reps and you hear a cracking/snapping on every rep, usually a muscle is tight, rubbing and causing friction around the bone. In that situation, stretch first, resume the same technique, and the snapping should decrease or be almost non-existent. If you can’t complete a rep, stop that technique and put ice on for 20 minutes, on and off at least two to three times. When pain starts to radiate, when you can’t perform the rep without any weight, or if you can't perform the rep with proper form, that is when you need to see a physical therapist, trainer, or doctor. If shoulder rotations with hands at your sides hurt, don’t screw with it; you’re going to make it worse. If you can’t lift your arm up past eye height, don’t mess with it; that’s a major injury, you probably tore something. When you’re not sure, err on the side of caution and don’t challenge it.

But training isn`t the only occasion to feel the unpleasant feeling of having your shoulder cracked incidentally. It could be caused by ligaments stretching and releasing or by the compression of nitrogen bubbles in the spaces of the joints. Joint cracking and popping on its own does not require treatment. It is normal, and these joint sounds may also increase with age. If you hear a popping sound in your joint and experience pain and swelling, you may have an injury that requires treatment. The treatment, itself, is not only ice, but special gels and medications with pain killing effect. Natural remedies with anti-swelling and anti-inflammatory effects are also appropriate. In all cases do not panic, but treat in time and if you do not feel any difference, on mandatory visit a doctor. Attention: small kids and mature people with a trauma that causes shoulder cracking should visit a doctor immediately and urgently. Matured bones (mainly joints) are harder to and slower to get better. And young kids might have more fragile bones that if broken can star “growing” incorrectly.

Shoulder cracking as a symptom of a long-term or chronic disease

 Unfortunately, shoulder cracking might be a sign of a serious chronic disease. It can be also a symptom of an illness that has moved to a further stage. Joint popping that occurs repeatedly, sometimes intentionally, can be caused by harmless events, such as knuckle cracking or snapping of a tendon over a protruding bony prominence. Repeated joint popping can also be caused by conditions that represent more serious joint status, such as a cartilage tear from a torn meniscus or degenerated cartilage from arthritis (osteoarthritis).
  • Cartilage tear as a reason for shoulder cracking
    The symptoms of a tear in the shoulder socket rim are very similar to those of other shoulder injuries like breakage, which is easier to be diagnosed even by the patient, himself, once the incident has happened.. Symptoms of cartilage tear (besides the shoulder cracking, including the sound of it and on a regular basis) are constant pain, usually with overhead activities, popping, or grinding, Occasional night pain or pain with daily activity, a sense of instability in the shoulder, decreased range of motions, loss of strength.
  • Arthritis
    As a chronic disease that can be caused due to unhealthy lifestyle, ageing or non cured trauma mixed with genetic predisposition, arthritis is a very common reason for you to have constant and common shoulder cracking unpleasant moments: during or without any physical activity. But to be more specific, it is the osteoarthritis form of arthritis that can usually cause you shoulder cracking. This effect is caused by the decreased joint space. Here is where we need to tell you that there is an individual form of shoulder arthritis and it is called shoulder osteoarthritis. You can also find it by the name of Degenerative Arthritis of the Shoulder. As with most types of osteoarthritis, pain is a key symptom. A person with shoulder arthritis is likely to have pain while moving the shoulder and after moving the shoulder. The person can even have pain while sleeping. Another symptom may be a limited range of motion. This limitation can be seen when you are trying to move your arm. It can also be evident if someone is moving your arm to assess range of motion. Moving the shoulder might also produce a clicking or creaking noise we have been talking about since the beginning of this material.

There are three main types of reducing the shoulder tracking if having shoulder osteoarthritis

  • Resting more, which is an advice that mostly, people with arthritis over 50-years old will get.
  • Performing specific exercise, which is a very modern and yet, effective way to remove the trauma symptoms such as the osteoarthritis in shoulder, itself. The exercises, though, should be performed under doctor`s prescriptions.
  • Taking anti-inflammatory drugs that should be prescribed by experts.


 Shoulder cracking is definitely a double-side joint problem you should not underestimate at all. What is important in the case is to be sure whether it is an individual cracking or repeated one. If the shoulder cracking starts repeating over and over again, it is a definite sign of a more serious problem that requires a visitation to the therapist, an orthopaedic doctor or any clinic at all. We remind you that our material is fully informative and you should not accept it as a medical or doctor`s prescription. Make sure to visit a medical specialist in case you have problems with shoulder cracking.

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