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Shoulder snaps, pops, or grates

Snapping, popping, or a grating feeling in your shoulder that is not painful but occurs when you bend or twist your arm may be annoying but usually is not serious.

A snap, pop, or grating at the time of a painful injury can be caused by:

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  • Inflammation of the sac of fluid that cushions and lubricates the joint area between one bone and another bone, a tendon, or the skin (bursitis).
  • Inflammation of the tough, ropelike fibers that connect muscles to bones (tendinitis).
  • A broken bone (fracture).
  • Separation of the shoulder, which occurs when the outer end of the collarbone (clavicle) separates from the end (acromion) of the shoulder blade because of torn ligaments. This injury occurs most often from a blow to a shoulder or a fall onto a shoulder or outstretched hand or arm.
  • Pulling or pushing bones out of their normal relationship to the other bones that make up the shoulder joint (dislocation).

If you do not have any pain at the time of a snap or pop, it may mean a ligament moved out of its normal position but did not tear. Shoulder grating may occur with joint movement in other conditions, such as arthritis, bursitis, or a torn rotator cuff. If you had no symptoms other than the snapping, popping, or grating sound or feeling, home treatment is usually all that is needed.

Prompt treatment is important to promote healing and prevent complications.

Author Jan Nissl, RN, BS
Editor Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA
Associate Editor Tracy Landauer
Primary Medical Reviewer William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer John G. Kloss, MD - Orthopedic Surgery and Fractures, Hand and Microvascular Surgery
Last Updated September 19, 2009

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 19, 2009
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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