Snap, Crackle and Pop. Why is my shoulder making noises?


Is your shoulder making noises when you move?

Is your shoulder making noises when you move? The good news is that research tells us that it isn’t something you need to worry much about, you don’t need to rush to have any X-rays or an MRI and you probably won’t need a shoulder surgery to fix it.

But why is your shoulder making noises and what can you do to stop it?

Before we look any deeper you will need a basic understanding of the anatomy of the shoulder…

Image source: www.josephbermanmd.com

The shoulder blade (scapula) is a triangular shaped bone that has a socket (glenoid) pointing outwards. The arm bone (humerus) is ball shaped at the end (head of humerus) and so it is designed to sits in the socket. This forms a ball and socket joint called the gleno-humeral joint.

The collar bone (clavicle) attaches the arm to the trunk. It meets with an area of the scapula called the acromion. This forms the acromioclavicular joint, sometimes called the AC joint.

DID YOU KNOW The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body!

Image source: www.shoulderpaindiffdiag.weebly.com

In order for the shoulder to have so much movement the glenoid has to be very shallow. So there is a firm cartilage, similar to a ring of calamari, called the labrum that deepens the glenoid and increases the stability of the shoulder. There are also many ligaments that work to provide more stability in the shoulder.


There are four rotator cuff muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis) that work to keep the gleno-humeral joint in place so that it can work well. There are also many other muscles such as the pectoralis major, deltoid, biceps and latissimus dorsi that work to allow the shoulder to move optimally.

As you can see the shoulder is a very complex area that relies on coordinated activity of many muscles to move and the ligaments, joints and labrum to be working optimally to provide stability!

Why does your shoulder make noises when you move?

For many years a labral tear was considered to be the cause of noisy shoulders. However, recent research says this is not the case.

To create a snapping sound we can press our fingers together and move them apart quickly. This causes friction between your fingers and as they slide apart it makes a snapping noise. The same thing can happen in your shoulder and you can hear your shoulder making noises. As you move tendons, ligaments and muscles can flick over bone or other soft tissue causing friction and a snapping noise.

To create a clicking sound you knock two hard objects together. In the shoulder when two hard surfaces knock against each other this can cause a clicking or clunking sound.

shoulder pain snapping sound

But why does this only happen in some shoulders?

As discussed earlier the shoulder is a very complex area that relies on perfectly timed activity of muscles to move. If your muscles are not working at the right time or are not strong enough to do what you are trying to do this can cause them to flick over bone or soft tissue or can cause surfaces in the shoulder to knock against each other.

How to stop your shoulder making noises?

So whilst we now know that a noisy shoulder isn’t something to worry much about, it can get very annoying.

There are a few things you can do to help stop the clicking:

Change the exercise or weight you are doing

If the clicking only happens when you do overhead weights with 5kg then that tells you:

  • At the moment your shoulder is not strong enough to lift 5kg
  • At the moment your shoulder is not strong enough to lift weights overhead
Get your shoulder stronger

Focus on getting the muscles around your shoulder stronger, in particular the rotator cuff.

  • Start with easy positions around waist height and then gradually move further above your head
Image source: www.performancehealthacademy.com
Loosen off tight muscles

Tight muscles can pull the shoulder into sub-optimal positions which can cause noises

  • Using a roller or a spikey ball to release tight muscles can help. In particular, the pectoralis muscles.
shoulder pain roller
Image source: www.blog.yes4all.com
See a Physio!

Physios are experts at treating shoulders. We can give you the right exercises, help to loosen off tight muscles and provide advice on how to stop the shoulder making noises!

Helpful Links:


shoulder pain active solutions physio
shoulder pain active solutions physio floreat

Click on the links below to book online for a physiotherapy assessment and treatment or give us a call on 0438 648 884.

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