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Causes of Pulling and Popping in the Shoulder Blade

author image Natalie Smith
Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.
Causes of Pulling and Popping in the Shoulder Blade
Pain in the shoulder blade may indicate a serious condition. Photo Credit: YekoPhotoStudio/iStock/Getty Images

A pulling sensation and a popping noise in your shoulder blade can be irritating, but it may not be serious. If you are experiencing pain or a limited range of motion in addition to the pulling and popping, you may have a more serious problem.

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An injury to the shoulder, such as a sports-related injury or an injury caused by a car accident, may damage the ligaments in the shoulder or cause the bones in the shoulder to become slightly misaligned. If you can move normally and without pain, your physician may decide that it does not merit treatment, especially if he determines that the noise or pulling is the aftereffect of an old injury or a residual effect from a surgery on the shoulder. However, if you develop pain or if you begin to experience problems with moving, consult your physician.


Osteoarthritis is a condition in which the articular cartilage, or the cartilage at the ends of the bones, deteriorates. This condition is also known as degenerative joint disease of the shoulder. If the condition only causes mild pain and pulling in addition to the popping, it may be treated by physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications. However, if the pain is severe and radiography reveals a thickened or malformed joint, your physician may recommend surgery.


Shoulder impingement, or rotator cuff tendonitis, is characterized by pain in the top of the shoulder or the arm. This condition occurs when the tendons that hold the end of the humerus into the scapula become inflamed. The treatment depends on the severity of the injury. If the popping noise is the result of the humerus rubbing against the scapula, or shoulder blade, your physician may recommend surgery to repair the ligaments.

Adhesive Capsulitis

Adhesive capsulitis, or "frozen shoulder," occurs when the connective tissue that surrounds your shoulder joint tightens or becomes thicker. This causes stiffness or a pulling sensation. People who have undergone shoulder surgery or have had a broken shoulder or arm are more prone to this condition. Physical therapy and steroid injections in the shoulder are the usual courses of treatment for adhesive capsulitis, but surgery may relieve the stiffness and pain by removing some of the scar tissue.

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