Shoulder Clicking When Raising Arm

Vague descriptions, and almost identical symptoms and treatments, medical professionals sometimes have difficulty diagnosing shoulder injuries. Unless the injury is undeniably transparent, like a break or fracture, identifying the condition will take a bit of investigation and elimination.

Taking into account patient history, how the injury occurred, and a physical examination may help to narrow down a diagnosis or, at minimum eliminate could-be diagnoses.

A perfect example of this is – shoulder clicking when raising arm.

Shoulder Clicking

Shoulder clicking is one of the most shared complaints amongst those with shoulder injuries. As mentioned, this description could be associated with any number of conditions, making it tough to diagnose.

Further, shoulder clicking can potentially be quite normal, especially if it occurs on a daily basis and/or has been going on for a prolonged period of time. In this case, the complexities of the shoulder joint should be considered.

Consisting of bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bursae, all of the structures of the shoulder joint work together in unison. Their interactions lend to clicking or popping sounds and sensations; it is normal.

On the other hand, shoulder clicking may begin after a disturbance or traumatic injury to the shoulder joint, leading to a more serious problem. The key difference between the two (and in general) is the pain factor. Pain alone can help to omit a number of would-be conditions.

Common Injuries Associated With Shoulder Clicking


An inflammatory rotator cuff condition, resulting in both shoulder pain and stiffness. Often a result of repetitive motion (i.e. sports) or a sudden injury, sufferers may present shoulder clicking when raising arm.

Treatment: rest your arm and modify the activities that irritate your shoulder; apply hot/cold compression to reduce inflammation; and take OTC anti-inflammatory medications (i.e. ibuprofen).

Shoulder Arthritis

The thinning or loss of cartilage that line the shoulder joint, causing pain, swelling, limited ROM, and clicking sounds when the arm is raised.

Treatment: non-surgical options include avoiding activities that cause pain; take OTC anti-inflammatory medications; steroid injections; apply heat or ice; and physical therapy.

Shoulder Impingement

Occurs when the soft tissues of the shoulder pinch and rub against the acromion (part of the shoulder blade), causing rotator cuff and bursa pain and swelling, clicking sensations, and limited ROM.

Treatment: take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications; eliminate any activities that may be contributing to pain; cortisone injections; and physical therapy.

Labral Tears

Occurs when the top of the labrum is torn or frayed, which can lead to pain when lifting the arm, clicking or popping sounds, shoulder instability or dislocations, and weakness.

Treatment: the type of tear will dictate the treatment, but resting the arm and modifying activities may help alleviate pain; physical therapy; and OTC anti-inflammatory medications.

While these are just a few conditions that exhibit shoulder clicking when raising arm, there are other conditions that may resemble your particular symptoms. Because of the repetitive nature of symptoms, it is vital to listen to your body and pay attention to your symptoms. If they worsen or if you have questions, don’t hesitate to consult your physician or sports medicine specialist.

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