Do you find your shoulder pops or grinds during an exercise? As well as feeling strangely uncomfortable, this popping and grinding can also be preventing you from partaking in your favourite workout.
So, why does this happen? Here, you’ll discover 5 reasons popping and grinding of the shoulder can occur when you work out.
1. Loose shoulder ligaments
Although not as common as tight ligaments, some patients do experience discomfort or pain due to loose ligaments allowing abnormal movements of the shoulder. This is also often referred to as ‘double jointed’. It is known medically as ligamentous laxity. Physiotherapy is the starting point for treatment if symptoms are arising. Surgery is a last resort.
2. Shoulder impingement
Impingement is a common shoulder problem, caused when the subacromial bursa or the rotator cuff is pinched on movement. Anyone can develop this problem but it may be seen more often in overhead athletes. It can also lead to clicking of the shoulder. There are a number of treatments available for impingement, including exercises, steroid injections and finally surgery.
3. Gas build-up
Did you know over time, gas build up can occur within your joints? Known as cavitation, you won’t usually feel any pain, but it can lead to popping or grinding of the shoulder when you exercise.
This is because gases are released from the synovial fluid which is responsible for lubricating the joint. These gases contain a mixture of oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. As long as there is no pain alongside the popping sound, gas build-up doesn’t require any treatment.
4. Rotator cuff or labral tears
If the noise sounds more like grinding than popping, it could be down to a rotator cuff or labral tear. Both of these conditions can cause unusual noises when you exercise. Rotator cuff tears involve the muscles and tendons that are responsible for keeping the humerus within the socket. Labral tears affect the rubbery disc situated around the socket.
You’ll typically experience some level of pain if a tear is the cause. In order to treat these conditions, you’ll need to see a shoulder specialist and surgery may be required.
5. Shoulder arthritis
In some cases, the popping you hear could be down to osteoarthritis of the shoulder. The joints degenerate over time, reducing the space between the bones. This, in turn, causes the bones to start to rub together, resulting in a cracking or grinding sound when you exercise.
A shoulder specialist will be able to determine whether shoulder arthritis is the cause of the popping and you may need to avoid certain activities or make lifestyle changes.
These are just some of the main causes of why your shoulder pops or clicks when you exercise. As each cause requires a different type of treatment, it’s worth seeking a diagnosis from a professional. While some types of popping and grinding are harmless, others should be treated as soon as possible.