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Why Does Shannon’s…
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Why Does Shannon’s Shoulder Snap, Crackle and Pop?

April 13, 2017
Man climbing an icy cliff.

Shannon’s right shoulder snapped, crackled and popped with any weight-bearing exercise, when ice climbing in the mountains, and as the condition worsened, even putting on a shirt. The range of motion and the pain with motion was debilitating. Fortunately the shoulder is the most movable joint of the body, and unfortunately, one of the most unstable joints.

The shoulder helps to lift the arm, to rotate it and to reach up overhead. The shoulder is made up of three bones, upper arm bone, humerus, shoulder blade, scapula, and collarbone, clavicle. The head of the upper arm bone fits into a shallow socket in the shoulder blade. The shoulder relies on strong tendons and muscles to keep the shoulder stable.

If any of the shoulder structures are injured, the smoothly functioning shoulder can snap or pop. Injuries can be a result of aging, everyday use, chronic repetitive stress, sports, or significant trauma. Shannon’s injury was a combination of aging and every-other-day repetitive use of weights in a muscle madness aerobics class.

Shoulder injuries characterized by popping, crackling and snapping include:

Shoulder tear: If the cartilage in the shoulder is torn, it may be separating from the bone or becoming caught in the shoulder and causing a clicking sound.

Shoulder dislocation: The ball of the shoulder can slide up or over the edge of the socket and popping may be heard when the ball then falls back into place.

Torn rotator cuff: Overuse, aging or trauma strains the rotator cuff tendons, resulting in inflammation and tearing, characterized by weakness and noisy movement.

Shoulder arthritis: The shoulder cartilage or cushioning on the ends of bones becomes depleted and snapping can occur if the cartilage is rough, thinning or absent.

Shannon tried suggested nonsurgical relief options:

  • Ice
  • Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen
  • Rest
  • Activity modification
  • Physiotherapy to strengthen the muscles

The pain, limited motion and noisy shoulder persisted. So she went to Direct Orthopedic Care for help. After discussing her symptoms and medical history, the DOC physician examined Shannon’s shoulder and performed a series of range of motion tests to assess shoulder instability. Her orthopedic surgeon reviewed X-rays of the shoulder joint. Diagnosis: osteoarthritis or wear-and-tear arthritis.

Treatment: cortisone injection. Cortisone injections do not cure the condition, but provide a window of symptom relief via inflammation reduction. This allows for improved joint motion and muscle strength and less snapping, crackling and popping. Shannon is happy to be able to reach for the stars without help or pain.

For more information on the cost of care, click here.


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