Shoulder Popping with No Pain: Good News or Bad News?

By Chris Centeno, MD /

Receive a Regenexx® Patient Info Packet by email and learn why it's a superior regenerative solution.

So you have shoulder popping with no pain. That’s something to be ignored, right? It certainly seems harmless enough—after all, there’s no pain, just that annoying popping when you move your shoulder this way or that. But just because there’s no pain doesn’t mean there’s no problem. There’s actually good news and bad news here. The good news? All that shoulder popping really could be no big deal. The bad news? That popping could be slowly chewing up your shoulder joint, and it may be a warning sign that arthritis is on its way.

So how can you tell the difference, and what can you do about it? Let’s start by taking a look at the shoulder.

The Shoulder and Its Ligaments

The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint where the head of the humerus (the long bone of the upper arm) forms the ball that rests in a shallow depression of the scapula called the glenoid. There are ligaments (e.g., capsular, coracohumeral, coracoacromial, etc.) that hold the shoulder in place and provide stability by keeping movement precise and controlled.

These ligaments can be stretched by an injury without breaking, and this can lead to loose ligaments. When the ligaments become loose, the shoulder can move too far backward or forward. This extra movement is called instability, and even shoulder popping with no pain can be a symptom of this instability.

This instability can occur due to a variety of reasons: trauma causing shoulder dislocation, degeneration of the joint with aging, wear and tear, and so on. Injuries to the ligaments can actually affect the entire shoulder, and if left unaddressed, they can lead to other shoulder issues, such as shoulder labral tears and early shoulder arthritis and, eventually, pain.

How Do I Know if My Shoulder Popping with No Pain Is Good or Bad?

Regrettably, for the most part, your orthopedic surgeon or family doctor has not been trained to identify these types of instability issues. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: they’ve been taught to ignore them! This is despite the evidence that unstable joints can lead to the quicker onset of arthritis.

Since it’s unlikely your doctors will be much help here, how can you tell which type of shoulder popping you have? Do you have the it’s-no-big-deal shoulder popping, or do you have the it’s-chewing-up-my-shoulder-joint shoulder popping? You’re going to need to dig into your history a bit. Have you had a shoulder “separation” in the past? Has your shoulder popped out of the socket, or been dislocated, in the past? Have you had shoulder trauma, perhaps due to a car accident or sports injury, where you had significant pain and then you assumed healed because, well, there’s been no pain over the past 5, 10, or even 20 years? Think way back. If so, then this popping may be a big deal. If you’ve never had any of these past traumas, then chances are, the popping is no big deal.

Don’t Wait for the Pain to Set In

If your particular shoulder popping with no pain falls in the bad news category, until there is pain, your doctor is probably not going to suggest any treatment—remember, they typically ignore these issues. However, by the time pain sets in, you may already have developed arthritis, a labral tear, or some other shoulder issue. Regrettably, surgery is currently the most common way to stabilize shoulder instability, but it is invasive, there is a huge amount of downtime, and the recovery process is lengthy. However, there are newer and much less invasive ways to tighten ligaments without surgery by precisely injecting your own concentrated platelets into lax ligaments.

The upshot? If you have had shoulder injuries and now have popping in that area, then you need to have the stability of your shoulder ligaments examined. Avoiding surgery for shoulder instability shouldn’t be a problem as it is easily treatable with today’s advanced image-guided regenerative medicine injections into the loose ligaments. This is one of those situations in which the sooner the better, however, because the problem is harder to fix once arthritis sets in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

20 thoughts on “Shoulder Popping with No Pain: Good News or Bad News?

  1. Debbie Jacobson

    I appreciate this information so informative and interesting. I do believe less evasive therapy is the answer. I will continue to get information from your site, thank you so much. It gives us a point of education beyond the every day medical choices. I just think your team is so awesome and Dr. Osborn and team are top notch!

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Thanks Debbie!, We’ll pass that along to Dr. Osborn…

  2. Vincent

    HI,
    I had shoulder surgery for a clavicle separation over 10 years ago. My shoulder does not hurt but I do have a lot of snap and pop. What methods would you use to diagnose my ordeal. Would an mri be absolutely necessary? And would I probably need prp or stem cells to repair any damage*
    Thank you

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Vincent,

      An MRI would be necessary to do the Phone Candidacy review. For the actual exam it would be helpful, but a Stress Ultrasound exam would give significantly more information as it would allow the doctor to see the tendons and ligaments functioning in motion. The decision about whether stem cells or prp is needed is based on the exam. Please see: http://www.regenexx.com/blog/shoulder-instability-recovery-time/

  3. Jonathan Medina

    Hello I think I might be in the bad news category, I had a dislocation not to long ago and now my shoulder pops when I roll my shoulder and I don’t know what to do. Where do I go to get my shoulder treated I wanna get help for it asap.

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Jonathon,
      The good news is there is treatment to help. Best place to start would be to submit the Candidate form here to see if you would be a Candidate: https://regenexx.com/the-regenexx-procedures/shoulder-surgery-alternative/

  4. Tom Compton

    Hi I’ve had shoulder popping issues for as long as I can remember in both shoulders. It’s completely controlled but I don’t know why it’s occurred as it has. I’ve been to physiotherapists and doctors about it but none have been able to give any advice or help other than “exercises”. Not sure what to do or if I should do anything about it.

    1. Chris Centeno Post author

      Tom, the big issue is to rule out any instability. This requires a specialized exam.

  5. Pam

    So I have been going to the gym for roughly 5 months and now my shoulder has been clicking for like a week without any pain. It constantly and mostly clicks if I rotate my arm clockwise forward in a circle manner. I have had NO injuries in the past of any sort. Iam 16 yrs of age and wanted to know what it could be, my shoulder doesn’t feel loose,feels solid but clicks/cracks when rotated. And plus want to know if I should stop gym for a while if not then what kind of excersizes and stretches should I be doing to improve the clicks/cracks. This will be sooo appreciates and thankful if people reply.THXS.

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Pam,
      We’d need to examine you to advise. This could be a rotator cuff tear, as well as other things. This is our UK location: https://www.algocells.com/?utm_source=regenexxreferral&utm_medium=webreferral&utm_campaign=regenexxlocations

  6. Ashwin

    So I’m a high school swimmer and I swim for about two and a half hours every day. This past week, my right shoulder has been experiencing constant painless popping. Even over the most simple of motions like raising my hand or reaching for something, it pops. I have not had any injuries in the past whatsoever and my shoulder feel perfectly fine, but the constant clicking is concerning. Not sure what to do about this.

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Ashwin,
      As a swimmer who puts that level of stress on a shoulder daily it would likely be a good idea to be examined, as this type of popping can signal that a tendon or ligament is compromised. Please see: https://regenexx.com/the-regenexx-procedures/shoulder-surgery-alternative/ To look into setting that up, please call 855 622 7838.

  7. Jason Wilkerson

    I had rotator cuff surgery about 8 months ago with bicep tenodesis. I had rotator cuff done before in 2005. This time though I have clicking in my shoulder at my clavicle and it does like a thunking sound. It feels unstable at times. I am not sure what to do with this. Rotator cuff already took months to recover, but I don’t want to wear out the joint. I’m 47 and not get any younger.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Jason,
      To see if there is anything we can do to help we’d need more information through a Candidacy review, and to examine you, but unfortunately this is very common with this surgery and more common with the effects of multiple surgeries. Please see: https://regenexx.com/blog/biceps-tenodesis-side-effects/ and https://regenexx.com/blog/there-are-many-reasons-to-rethink-arthroscopy-shoulder-surgery/ and https://regenexx.com/conditions-treated/shoulder/ If you’d like us to weigh in, please submit the candidate form here: http://www.regenexx.com

  8. Langston

    I am 17 years old, had a rotator cuff dislocation about a year ago, and dislocated my shoulder again fully again today. It did not hurt at all. Is this bad? I sometimes have clicking when rotating my shoulder. Signs of tendonitis?

  9. Diana

    My left shoulder has been popping when i stretch my arm to the right recentlt. Sometimes it has this dull like pain as well not right after popping but randomly especially whe i tense my upper back and shoulders too much. I have had this pain for about two years to three years now. At first in both shoulders. When i say shoulders i mean the area slightly towards my back, that bone right next to the base of my neck. Now it only occurs in my left one. Note that only my left shoulder pops and not my right. Should i go for a checkup. I am still below 25 and i a few years back hoped that the pain would just subside with strecthing excersises.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Diana,
      Considering that there has been an issue for two years, it would likely be a good idea to look into this as these types of issues can create other issues if left untreated. The lower cervical spinal nerves control the shoulder, and the shoulder is connected to the lower cervical spine skeletally, and with muscles and ligaments. Please see: https://regenexx.com/blog/neck-instability-whycant-i-lift-my-arms-overhead/
      and https://regenexx.com/blog/a-colorado-regenexx-patient-review-pain-free/ Please let us know if you’d like to set up an exam.

  10. N/A

    I play soccer and regularly during the week we do arm workouts and things like shoulder shrugs. Both of my shoulders have been popping loudly with most movements. What should I do?

    1. Chris Centeno, MD Post author

      You need to get the shoulders looked at by a physician to see if they are unstable.

Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
View Profile

Get Blog Updates by Email

Get fresh updates and insights from Regenexx delivered straight to your inbox.

Regenerative procedures are commonly used to treat musculoskelatal trauma, overuse injuries, and degenerative issues, including failed surgeries.
Select Your Problem Area
Shoulder

Shoulder

Many Shoulder and Rotator Cuff injuries are good candidates for regenerative treatments. Before considering shoulder arthroscopy or shoulder replacement, consider an evaluation of your condition with a regenerative treatment specialist.

  • Rotator Cuff Tears and Tendinitis
  • Shoulder Instability
  • SLAP Tear / Labral Tears
  • Shoulder Arthritis
  • Other Degenerative Conditions & Overuse Injuries
Learn More
Cervical Spine

Spine

Many spine injuries and degenerative conditions are good candidates for regenerative treatments and there are a number of studies showing promising results in treating a wide range of spine problems. Spine surgery should be a last resort for anyone, due to the cascade of negative effects it can have on the areas surrounding the surgery. And epidural steroid injections are problematic due to their long-term negative impact on bone density.

  • Herniated, Bulging, Protruding Discs
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • SI Joint Syndrome
  • Sciatica
  • Pinched Nerves and General Back Pain
  • And more
Learn More
Knee

Knees

Knees are the target of many common sports injuries. Sadly, they are also the target of a number of surgeries that research has frequently shown to be ineffective or minimally effective. Knee arthritis can also be a common cause for aging athletes to abandon the sports and activities they love. Regenerative procedures can be used to treat a wide range of knee injuries and conditions. They can even be used to reduce pain and delay knee replacement for more severe arthritis.

  • Knee Meniscus Tears
  • Knee ACL Tears
  • Knee Instability
  • Knee Osteoarthritis
  • Other Knee Ligaments / Tendons & Overuse Injuries
  • And more
Learn More
Lower Spine

Spine

Many spine injuries and degenerative conditions are good candidates for regenerative treatments and there are a number of studies showing promising results in treating a wide range of spine problems. Spine surgery should be a last resort for anyone, due to the cascade of negative effects it can have on the areas surrounding the surgery. And epidural steroid injections are problematic due to their long-term negative impact on bone density.

  • Herniated, Bulging, Protruding Discs
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • SI Joint Syndrome
  • Sciatica
  • Pinched Nerves and General Back Pain
  • And more
Learn More
Hand & Wrist

Hand & Wrist

Hand and wrist injuries and arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and conditions relating to overuse of the thumb, are good candidates for regenerative treatments. Before considering surgery, consider an evaluation of your condition with a regenerative treatment specialist.
  • Hand and Wrist Arthritis
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Trigger Finger
  • Thumb Arthritis (Basal Joint, CMC, Gamer’s Thumb, Texting Thumb)
  • Other conditions that cause pain
Learn More
Elbow

Elbow

Most injuries of the elbow’s tendons and ligaments, as well as arthritis, can be treated non-surgically with regenerative procedures.

  • Golfer’s elbow & Tennis elbow
  • Arthritis
  • Ulnar collateral ligament wear (common in baseball pitchers)
  • And more
Learn More
Hip

Hip

Hip injuries and degenerative conditions become more common with age. Do to the nature of the joint, it’s not quite as easy to injure as a knee, but it can take a beating and pain often develops over time. Whether a hip condition is acute or degenerative, regenerative procedures can help reduce pain and may help heal injured tissue, without the complications of invasive surgical hip procedures.

  • Labral Tear
  • Hip Arthritis
  • Hip Bursitis
  • Hip Sprain, Tendonitis or Inflammation
  • Hip Instability
Learn More
Foot & Ankle

Foot & Ankle

Foot and ankle injuries are common in athletes. These injuries can often benefit from non-surgical regenerative treatments. Before considering surgery, consider an evaluation of your condition with a regenerative treatment specialist.
  • Ankle Arthritis
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Ligament sprains or tears
  • Other conditions that cause pain
Learn More

Is Regenexx Right For You?

Request a free Regenexx Info Packet

REGENEXX WEBINARS

Learn about the #1 Stem Cell & Platelet Procedures for treating arthritis, common joint injuries & spine pain.

Join a Webinar

RECEIVE BLOG ARTICLES BY EMAIL

Get fresh updates and insights from Regenexx delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to the Blog

FOLLOW US

Copyright © Regenexx 2019. All rights reserved. | Privacy Policy

*DISCLAIMER: Like all medical procedures, Regenexx® Procedures have a success and failure rate. Patient reviews and testimonials on this site should not be interpreted as a statement on the effectiveness of our treatments for anyone else.

Providers listed on the Regenexx website are for informational purposes only and are not a recommendation from Regenexx for a specific provider or a guarantee of the outcome of any treatment you receive.

LinkedIn
Email