What Do Shoulder Popping and Knee Popping Mean?

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While shoulder popping or knee clicking may ignite concern, popping that is not painful or accompanied by swelling does not generally require medical intervention. However, if you are experiencing shoulder or knee popping that causes pain or inflammation, it can be a sign of injury. With traumatic stress or degeneration, the surfaces of the joints in the shoulders and knees can become rough and cause shoulder popping or knee clicking from friction between bones. Recognizing common causes of shoulder or knee popping can help you seek timely treatment for your condition.

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Shoulder Dislocation

Shoulder dislocations occur when sports injuries, falls, or other traumatic stresses cause the upper arm bone to be jostled out of the cup-shaped socket that forms part of the shoulder blade. When the ball of the shoulder falls back into place, it can cause shoulder popping or snapping, along with pain, bruising, swelling, or even an observable deformity in the shoulder.

Treatment for shoulder popping due to dislocation may include manipulation of the shoulder bones back into their original position and rehabilitation to restore the full range of motion to the shoulder joint. Reoccurring shoulder dislocations due to weak joints or ligaments may require surgical intervention.

Rotator Cuff Tears

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that form a “cuff” connecting the upper arm to the shoulder blade. Rotator cuff tears can include traumatic tears due to accidents or falls, chronic, preexisting tears that have progressed unnoticed, or degenerative tears due to wear and tear of the tendons from age or routine activities like gardening or carpentry. As rotator cuff tears give rise to loose structures in the shoulder that may impinge on other structures, they often cause painful shoulder popping.

Treatment for rotator cuff tears may include activity modification to minimize activities that aggravate the shoulder muscles, strengthening exercises, and physical therapy. When shoulder popping and pain do not improve with nonsurgical intervention, surgery may be required to repair the torn rotator cuff.

Meniscal Tears

The menisci are two C-shaped discs between the top of the tibia and the end of the femur. Injuries or natural attrition can cause traumatic or degenerative tears of the menisci. Traumatic meniscal tears can arise from contact sports like football. Degenerative tears typically occur in older individuals as the cartilage weakens and thins. As a meniscus is located between two bones, loose flaps can give rise to knee popping or clicking that grows more severe with turning and twisting motions.

Nonsurgical treatment for meniscal tears includes physical therapy to help strengthen the knee joint or wearing a knee brace to stabilize the knee. Surgical options can include a Meniscectomy to trim damaged meniscal tissue away, or meniscal repair.

Osteoarthritis

Healthy cartilage is smooth and provides a cushion at the end of the bones to prevent friction during movement. However, when the cartilage in the shoulder or knee degenerates and thins from osteoarthritis, it can separate from the underlying bone and cause the surface of the shoulder or knee to become course. As the bones continue to move, knee or shoulder popping or snapping can occur.

Treatment for osteoarthritis can include a weight management program to alleviate stress on the joints or a regular fitness regimen to improve the strength and stability of the shoulder and knee joints. Walking aids like braces and shoe inserts can also offer relief from knee pains.

Contact Manhattan Orthopedic Care if you are experiencing shoulder or knee popping and require a consultation.