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Why You Shouldn't Ignore That Popping Sound in Your Shoulder

Shoulder problems are one of the main joint and muscle issues that send people in search of medical attention. Unfortunately, most wait until there’s something seriously wrong before scheduling that appointment.  

William Schell, MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, treats musculoskeletal issues, including tendon damage, ligament strain, and cartilage loss. Here are just a few reasons why you shouldn’t ignore that strange clicking or popping sound in your shoulder, whether you have pain or not.

How your shoulder works

Your shoulder is a complex system of tendons, ligaments, muscles, and cartilage, holding a ball-and-socket joint in place. This impressive structure creates extensive mobility, flexibility, and range of motion in your arms. At the same time, however, it also leaves your shoulder joints incredibly vulnerable to injury, especially when compared with other joints.

There’s a medical term — crepitus — for the popping, cracking, or snapping sound you might be hearing in your shoulder joint. You can experience crepitus in any joint, but when it happens in your shoulder, it can indicate one of several problems.

Common causes of crepitus

You can develop a popping sensation in your shoulder for a variety of reasons, including:

It’s also possible to have crepitus when a shoulder fracture — even one as small as a hairline fracture — doesn’t heal correctly. When this happens, muscles can catch or rub against uneven ridges in your bones, creating a sound you can hear. 

You can have all of these issues with or without shoulder pain. However, regardless of whether pain is present, they all indicate a problem with your shoulder health. When we identify the cause of crepitus early on, we can treat your condition before it worsens. 

The risks of ignoring crepitus

When you ignore that popping sensation, you can cause additional damage or deterioration to the structures in your shoulder. With time, you can even develop frozen shoulder. 

Frozen shoulder — or adhesive capsulitis — occurs when the tissue in your shoulder joint grows tighter and thicker, which can cause scar tissue to form. When these changes occur, you lose range of motion in your shoulder and develop additional symptoms, like pain, swelling, and stiffness. 

Without treatment, these symptoms can worsen, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks, like getting dressed or reaching for items overhead.

Don’t ignore that popping sound in your shoulder; find solutions today. Schedule a consultation by contacting our New York City office, which is located on Columbus Circle on the Upper West Side.

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