View Full Version : Cracking shoulders, what is the cause, and how can it be fixed?

11-15-2011, 11:39 AM
I seem to have some shoulder problems which concerns me: If I move my shoulder blades in circular motion without any weight they start cracking very loudly. I don't feel any pain but it must be bad, since the cartilage between the joints (probably the glenohumeral joint) is rubbing against each other. Do any of you have this experience? And have any of you found a solution on how to fix it?

I was wondering if there is a connection between kyphotic posture or upper cross syndrome and the cracking of the shoulders? Perhaps the surface of my ribs on my ribcage are the cause of the cracking?

Could it be a muscular problem? Perhaps the muscle balance is of, forcing the movement of the joint to occur dysfunctionally?

I would really like to figure out how to stop this from happening. It can't be natural or healthy to have popping sounds like that?? I've had it for about 10 years and I'm 24 years old now.

I hope some of you can help me out.


11-15-2011, 12:25 PM
Have you had surgery? This sounds like a problem for your doctor to figure out. It may not be spine related at all. Where exactly is the cracking occuring, IN you shoulders, or around your shoulder blades? I know upper curves can definitely affect your shoulders (personal experience), but I've never heard of cracking. My make a popping sound over my ribs and spine when I rotate my shoulder blades, but my shoulders do not pop. Where is, and how bad is your curve? Do you have strictly kyphosis? Let us know what you find out. Best Wishes.

11-15-2011, 01:35 PM
Hi rohrer01 and thank you for the reply :)

My curve is about 30 degree (mostly lumbar and a bit of the thoracic spine ) I have some pictures of my scoliosis here

I have not had surgery. I'm trying to fix it with healthy food, supplements and training, and I'm trting really hard.

I might not be distinguishing correctly between popping and cracking: To me it feels like my shoulder blade is hitting multiple places along the surface of the ribs, it's probably more of a popping sound. Perhaps it's the same as yours?

How does it affect you that the shoulder blade is hitting your ribs? And what have you been told about it?

11-15-2011, 07:27 PM
Okay, I remember you now. Looking at your pictures again, you look hypokyphotic, meaning not enough kyphosis in your upper back. That means it looks as if your upper back is sinking in. Your right shoulder is a little higher, which is probably due to to a right thoracic compensatory curve. Just that fact alone seems to make your right shoulder a little elevated and also your makes your right shoulder blade stick out, making it appear from the side that you are kyphotic. Your thoracic curve looks very minimal as compared to your lumbar. You also don't appear hyperlordotic in the lumbar spine, except in that one picture, so is probably the angle of the picture. You do not appear to have a rib hump at all, so I doubt it is from your scapula grinding across your ribs. Your standing assymetry is obviously due to your scoliotic posture. You may have a slightly more muscular right trapezius from the right thoracic curve, but on bending, at least, you can't even see a thoracic curve. I don't remember, did you ever get x-rays? That might explain a lot. You may have also progressed since this picture. It's my honest opinion that your shoulder popping has nothing to do with your scoliosis. It might have more to do with loose joints if you are loose jointed, as I am. My upper back is messed up and I have a noticeable rib hump on my upper left shoulder. My grinding comes from actual sliding across the ribs, but my musculature is really off and I don't have full range of motion in that shoulder. My right shoulder also makes noise, but an uneven skeleton and musculature on both sides could play a role. I would guess that many in the non-scoliotic population also have this noise if they are loose jointed. Dr. McIntire would probably have a better answer than me.

Does it feel like your shoulder blades are catching on something and then popping loose to slide across? Your upper back just looks so good from the external pictures. Some people have a winged scapula. There is a thread on here about it. It appears, from that thread, that scoliosis isn't necessarily a criteria for winged scapula. If you can get into the doctor and ask him/her, I would do that if it is really bothersome. Sorry I couldn't be more help.

How's the working out going? I have a PT that studies a different method of exercise that involves working the "good" side to correct the bad side. It didn't make much sense to me from a physiologic standpoint, but I'll look through and see if I still have the paper. I'm thinking I threw it out.

Maybe others here can chime in with some ideas and/or experiences.

11-16-2011, 06:17 AM
My pictures might be a bit unclear, my thoracic spine is in fact close to hyperkyphotic, my x-ray showed that I almost have 40degree curve to my thoracic spine. This might be an expression of my shoulders coming forward (upper cross syndrome) because of my tight pectoralis muscles. My chest is sunken, and I have more of a left rib hump (left convex side). My x-ray showed that I have no compensatory thoracic curve only one lumbothotracic curve going left

As far as working out combined with stretching sessions, it has helped me tremendously!
I really began taking it seriously. I'm trying to stretch the muscles that can cause rotation of the spine + the muscels that are often prone to tightness (there is a list of the muscles that are prone to tightness) and then I have begun exercising the kinetic muscle chains ( The nervous system is suppose to activate certain muscles during complex movements so they work in a chain) in the body to function as properly as possible. This includes Squats, deadlift, and ab-rollouts with a wheel. I also took away bread, sugar and any junk from my diet basically only eating fruit, vegetables and meat combined with fish oil and some supplements. I'm now doing 160Lb in deadlift, and I'm amazed that my back can handle it. In the beginning I felt headaches after doing it, but it was probably because my nervous system had not adapted to balancing the force generated by the weight to my different muscles (That absorb the force) working together in a chain reaction.

As for my shoulders, I'm still not in a quandary about what to do. I'm having a hard time doing overhead exercises (I feel it in my acromion), and I feel the popping sounds which I'm still convinced are my ribs, but I'll ask my PT as soon as possible.

Your PT might be on to something. I don't know what his explanation is and what results he has gotten (?), but I know that the reason we experience muscle pain is because some of the muscles are overworking. There should be a balance between antagonistic muscles (Two muscles producing the opposite movement of a joint or shoulder) and the synergistic muscles (Two muscles producing the same movement). If we are off balance, one of the muscles gets overworked and we experience pain and tightness that might result in headaches (if connected to the neck/head)

11-16-2011, 06:22 AM
Is there some question about your curves being structural versus compensatory? I remember seeing your bending photos and thinking you might not have a structural curve. Never agree to surgery until at least a few surgeons prove your curve is structural. Just my lay opinion.

11-16-2011, 07:55 AM
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think he is looking into surgery. It's my understanding that he is trying to do everything as natural and healthy as possible to see if his body will correct itself. It's the popping shoulders that are getting in the way of some exercises. I think only a doctor could really diagnose the problem with the shoulders. I don't think a thoracolumbar curve would affect them unless it was really large, but maybe I'm wrong. Sorry, I just don't see the kyphosis at all, but again I'm not a doctor.

green m&m
11-16-2011, 02:44 PM
It could be your rotator cuff. Your curve might be throwing the scapula out of alignment which might affecting the rotator cuff -- pinching/stretching the ligaments out of normal range.

My left shoulder crackles at times, and itís all soft tissue making that noise.

11-16-2011, 03:32 PM
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think he is looking into surgery. It's my understanding that he is trying to do everything as natural and healthy as possible to see if his body will correct itself. It's the popping shoulders that are getting in the way of some exercises. I think only a doctor could really diagnose the problem with the shoulders. I don't think a thoracolumbar curve would affect them unless it was really large, but maybe I'm wrong. Sorry, I just don't see the kyphosis at all, but again I'm not a doctor.

I agree that I don't think he is looking at surgery. But I am worried that pain might drive him there which would be the mother of all kicks in the teeth if he doesn't have a structural curve.

01-02-2012, 05:55 AM
Hypokyphosis and shoulder problems

It's been a while, and I have been strength training a lot trying to improve my condition! The only weak chain in my body are my shoulder blades, and as Rohrer01 suggested I actually think it's caused by Hypokyphosis (Flat back), so thank you for suggesting that! It really took me some time to realize; always believing I had hyperkyphosis due to my forward head posture and my hump from the shoulder blades. This means, the shoulder problem cannot completely be fixed by working on my shoulders isolated, if hypokyphosis is the underlying cause.

In the book "Diagnosis and treatment of movement impairment syndrome" the only thing mentioned about flat back posture is that it makes the scapulae wing, and this is probably also the reason my shoulderbaldes don't externally rotate enough during overhead press exercises, causing pain my acromioclavicular joint.

I believe my tension in the neck and mid thoracic area, is caused by this flat back posture. I have been reading about darrin90 and how torso rotaqtional strengthening exercisis helped the pain (Thank you for sharing)

I'm going to try out some of these ecercises.


01-02-2012, 07:05 PM
hi Christian
i have had "clicking" shoulders since i had Lyme disease...went undiagnosed
for a year and a half...finally diagnosed in the late 80's...
in my case, my shoulders click because the cartiledge is gone from my shoulders,
and the bones are rubbing against bone...(no relation to my scoli or hypokyphosis)
the Lyme left me with a lot of arthritis, but the looong anitbiotic treatments,
including IV, kicked it out of my brain, which had been the scariest part
for me....
it left me with a lot of arthritis in my spine as well....

hope you figure out the answers....

11-16-2017, 05:48 PM
Here is my experience with cracking sounds in my neck. (FYI, I had surgery for scoliosis in 1964 when I was 15 years old. I had two Herrington rods attached and nine vertebrate fused. The surgery did not totally correct my curvature.) Within the last few years I noticed how tight my shoulder and neck muscles get and that when I moved my neck how I heard cracking sounds. Also, pain in the neck and shoulder area has been getting progressively worse in the last few months. About three months ago I started going to a massage therapist who advertises his specialty as pain management. He has mainly worked on my back, shoulder, and neck muscles and the muscle tightness, pain, and popping has almost disappeared. Also, I was getting head aches and ear aches that I've had for years and they have almost totally disappeared too.