Why Does My Shoulder Pop After Surgery?

“Why does my shoulder pop?” is a common question people ask after shoulder surgery. Some complain that this sensation makes the shoulder feel “noisy” after surgery.  The popping or clicking will eventually go away, but it does require time for appropriate healing and rehabilitation, and you should think about how it might be impacting your recovery.

Painless Shoulder Popping After Surgery

Following surgery, the sensation of painless popping or clicking is associated with scar tissue and post-operative inflammation. It’s not a big concern as long as it remains painless and doesn’t last longer than a year after surgery. If it does bother you, try to immobilize that shoulder as much as possible.

Additionally, range of motion and muscle firing patterns are altered.  Range of motion refers to how far you can move your shoulder in various directions. Examples would include raising your arm above your head or holding your arm straight ahead and twisting your palm to face upward. It is a normal part of the healing process to have a reduced range of motion initially, but it should improve over time. If it is not, that is a good thing to talk to your shoulder surgeon or physical therapist about. It can lead to altered mechanics and compensatory movements, which could cause other problems for you.

Painful Shoulder Popping After Surgery

Painful popping is more of a concern and should be evaluated.  Your physical therapist will be monitoring your progress on a regular basis and will be able to distinguish between a bump in the road versus what is more concerning.  Of course, if you are really feeling concerned, the best solution Is to call your shoulder surgeon and schedule an appointment to make sure that your recovery is a success.

Popping Without Surgery

If your shoulder has started popping all of a sudden, think about if:

  • You’ve had a recent injury or fall
  • It’s been happening for at least a month
  • The popping is painful
  • If it impacts your ability to enjoy activities

Shoulders do sometimes pop for no particular reason like any other joint, and sometimes minor shoulder injuries, especially if you are older, may not need treatment. However, if your answer is “yes” to one or especially a few of the above statements, it’s probably worth having your shoulder checked out by a shoulder specialist or physical therapist.

Need an expert opinion? Our shoulder specialists are here to help, with no referral needed. 

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