For most people, some clicking in the shoulder joint can be considered normal, especially if it has gone on long term. If the clicking is a new issue and is accompanied by pain or discomfort, then it is likely you have somehow injured your shoulder.
The type of injury to a shoulder is not always easy to diagnose. Likely, you’ll need some testing or x-rays. The doctor may order an MRI to determine if there is soft tissue damage. A rotator cuff injury can be very complex to diagnose. The shoulder is made up of multiple tendons, ligaments, bursae and the joint itself. One thing can be the cause, or you could have an issue that is impacting several parts of the shoulder. A shoulder clicking when raising arm can be a lot of different things though.
Arthritis damage can cause a clicking in the shoulder, but so can rotator cuff tendonitis. Tendons and ligaments can be rubbing against the acromion, which is part of the shoulder blade. This can cause a very distinct popping sound. Labral tears are tears to the top of the shoulder which can impede the ability to raise the arm and will also create a popping sound, accompanied with weakness of the shoulder.
The treatment for each of these issues is similar but may differ slightly, depending on all the circumstances and the cause of the problem. For many people, simply taking some ibuprofen will alleviate pain and aggravation of the joint. For other, more serious issues, cortisone injections, tendon repair, or arthroscopic surgery may be on the agenda.
In nearly all cases, resting the arm is going to be part of the recovery. Ice is typically recommended due to inflammation of the joint being a large part of the issue. Inflammation causes swelling which forces ligaments and tendons against the bones in the shared space. Clicking can be tendons rubbing bones. Icing this inflammation will reduce swelling, which typically reduces the clicking sensations.
Many people hear the clicking in their shoulder and become concerned. That’s normal. Many will go to the doctor or orthopedic surgeon with these concerns. It is far better to find out that your clicking is arthritis that is common and will not cause any debilitating effects to your arm use. You are simply getting older and the joint is wearing. If arthritis is bad enough, a doctor may recommend doing arthroscopic surgery to try to clean the joint of debris causing the breakdown of cartilage inside the joint.
Other people will find out that they have a tendon that has torn loose from bone. This is a situation that will require surgery. In this case, going to the doctor following an accident and injury was a great idea. If this type of injury is treated surgically, your shoulder will likely heal very well, and you will continue to maintain normal mobility. Ignoring an injury like this can result in further damage that could potentially get so bad that the joint freezes and you lose range of motion and function of the joint will be almost zero.