Ask Beth: My shoulder hurts & clicks. What’s going on?

QUESTION: Why does my shoulder hurt and click?


Hey Beth,

I have something going on with my shoulder. I’ve been surfing for a couple of years, the last year pretty consistently at OB and Pacifica (2-3 times per week). For the last few weeks I’ve been going out longer than usual, sometimes up to 3 hours, and Monday morning I woke up with a sharp pain in the middle of my right shoulder. I took some ibuprofen, rested, and the pain went away. But now when I make a circling motion with my arm (like a swimming backstroke), I feel the muscles crunch and hear a clicking sound. What’s going on, and what should I do about it?


Jason T.



Welcome to my world, or should I say, my old world. When I was a competitive swimmer a thousand years ago and swimming 12 workouts a week, I had the same gig going on. But every night it felt like someone was inserting a knife into my arm.

Without getting a professional diagnosis, my educated over-the-Internet guess is that you have a bit of impingement going on in your shoulder- or a bit of tendonitis. I am guessing these two scenarios because you did not complain of a major blow to the shoulder area and because you have increased your surfing time. So basically, I am guessing you have an overuse injury and some swelling going on in the shoulder joint. The shoulder girdle is super complex with lots of tendons, ligaments, muscles, bursas, tissue, etc all flowing in different areas and all wanting to lie perfectly in their spot. As we surf and surf and surf and don’t ever stretch or rest, that area gets out of whack and pissed off! The clicking and crunching is often a result of this. Things aren’t flowing smooth so they make noise! If I have been surfing a ton and then finally get my butt into my yoga class, my shoulders sound like grunge music. At the end of the yoga class, they are finally quiet and well lubed.

I wish that I had known this during my swimming career because it would have saved me a lot of pain and could have improved my career! Yoga has saved my life and my shoulder, hip, back, neck, ankle… you get the idea—pains. It opens up your upper body so we don’t stand slumped forward, thins out the ultra bulky neck muscles so our head can actually turn comfortably, and allows the spine to sit properly. All of which help out the shoulders. Ice and Advil definitely help, but are more of a band-aid for the problem. You have to take a different route to prevent it from continuing.

Again, this is just a guess as to what is going on. A doctor definitely knows better than me—so go see one to make sure! I hope this helps. I apologize for the ramble session, this is just a pain I know all too well!



(Posted 9/14/04)