Exercises to Lubricate your Shoulder Joint and help the “Snap Crackle Pop” of Shoulder Crepitus
By Sit and Be Fit TV host, Mary Ann Wilson, RN
“Crepitus” is a term used to describe the cracking and popping that sometimes occurs in the shoulder joint when moving the arm. This condition can have a variety of causes. Shoulder crepitus can be caused by rough joint surfaces moving against one another or tendons “snapping” over a bony prominence. There is normally fluid in the joint, and sometimes, as the fluid moves during joint movement, it may make a popping sound due to pressure changes. In many cases, crepitus is normal and not a health concern. However, if pain or weaknesses of the shoulder muscles occur with the cracking and popping noise, especially if the condition persists, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional.
Gentle exercises will help lubricate and strengthen the shoulder joint and may alleviate the symptoms. Exercises should always be done within the limits of comfort. The purpose of these exercises is to preserve or increase range-of-motion and strength, as much as possible, and to lubricate the shoulder joint. Generally speaking, exercises using heavy resistance should be avoided, particularly if there is any associated pain.
Sit and Be Fit Range of Motion Exercises for Shoulder Crepitus
The following exercises use a towel, scarf, or necktie. Before beginning, gently warm up the shoulder joint with the Pendulum Warm up.
Pendulum Warm up – Sit toward the front edge of your chair. Brace your left hand on your right thigh. Keeping your back straight, lean slightly forward and to the right. Allow the right arm to dangle at your side in a relaxed fashion. Gently swing the arm back and forth like a pendulum. Then circle the arm in one direction several times and reverse the direction. Repeat with the left arm. This exercise warms up the rotator cuff, a group of muscles that help rotate the shoulder and hold the joint together.
Exercise 1: Hold a towel in your hands. Keep your elbows at your sides and bent to 90 degrees with palms up. Slowly move both arms to the right, then to the left. Repeat 2 or 3 times, going just a little farther each time. Be sure to stay within your comfort range.
Exercise 2: Wrap the towel behind your waist like a belt, holding its ends. Keep your elbows at your sides, bent to 90 degrees and palms facing each other. Repeat the same movements as in exercise #1. These exercises gently stretch the rotators of the shoulder.
Exercise 3: Hold the towel out in front of you at shoulder height and a little more than shoulder-width apart with palms down. Keep the arms straight and turn the towel so it is vertical, first in one direction, then the other. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
Exercise 4: Hold the towel about shoulder width apart, palms down. Keep the elbows straight and raise the arms up to shoulder height. Relax and repeat several times attempting to raise the arms a little higher each time, staying within your comfort range. As long as there is no pain the towel can be lifted all the way up, above above the head.
Exercise 5: Move your hands a little farther apart than shoulder width. With arms straight gently raise the towel up over your head, staying within your comfort range. When the towel is overhead, gently lower the towel down toward the top of your head, then raise it back up again. Repeat 2 or 3 times, eventually attempting to bring the towel behind your head.
These exercises, taken from the Sit and Be Fit television series, will help with shoulder crepitus by gently increasing shoulder range of motion. If you have severe pain or limitations in range of motion or strength, be sure to consult with your physician or physical therapist for exercises designed specifically to meet your needs.
If you’d like to join me on YouTube for a great exercise segment from the Sit and Be Fit TV program using the towel to work on upper body strengthening follow this link.