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Shoulder popping can be painful, and it sometimes indicates an underlying muscle or joint problem. Many people experience popping during pushups because they work the shoulder muscles and move the shoulder joint. If your shoulder starts popping while you're exercising, stop the exercise and rest for a few days. If you experience pain or the popping gets worse, consult your doctor.
Popping Joint Causes
Popping is common around joints such as the shoulders and elbows. While it might feel like your bones are popping, it's rarely the bone that is the culprit. Instead, popping sometimes occurs when you stretch a joint capsule as gas is released from synovial fluid, a lubricating fluid that exists in your joints. Additionally, when your tendons, ligaments and muscles move, they sometimes pop, particularly if they're very tense or you are injured. Arthritis can also cause your joints to pop, because there's less cartilage around your joints to cushion their movement.
Pushups and Popping
To understand the cause of the popping when you do pushups, take note of when it occurs. If you hear popping randomly throughout your pusup, it could indicate tight muscles, but if the popping reliably occurs with a certain movement, it might be caused by gas escaping the synovial fluid or a joint issue. Pushups force you to support most of your body weight with your arms and shoulders, and this can cause popping that might not otherwise occur. While popping doesn't always mean there's something wrong, if the popping is painful, you should stop doing pushups and seek the advice of a health care professional.
Stretching before and after your workout routine can help loosen up tense muscles and reduce your risk of both injury and popping. Sit up straight, bend your elbows and push them toward your back as if you are trying to touch them together until you feel a stretch. Next, cross your arms in front of you across your chest. Push your hands back toward your chest until you feel a stretch. A gentle massage can also alleviate popping. Some popping is caused by myofascial trigger points, which are small knots of tension in your muscles. Push on these knots, massaging in one direction, to loosen them up. You can do this on your own using your hands or a massage cane. If massaging a particular area requires you to strain to reach, avoid doing so and ask someone else to do it instead.
If popping is painful, talk to your doctor to ensure you don't have a joint problem or injury. Sometimes a few days of rest is all it takes for the pain to subside. Alternating hot and cold packs increase circulation to the affected area and can speed up healing time. If you have arthritis, regular exercise can strengthen your joints, but you should not do any exercise that is painful. Ask your doctor if pushups are OK for your specific situation.