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Fluid filled lump on shoulder, popping sensation when pressed, pain in shoulder, elbow and thumb. Should I go to ER?

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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 2005
Answered : 2305 Questions
I found a weird fluid/air filled lump on my shoulder this morning. It looked like an air bubble under the skin. When I pressed on it, I felt a popping sensation and the bubble dispersed. I am now having some pain in my shoulder, elbow and thumb of the same arm. I've called my Doctor's office and am waiting for a call back. Should I go to the ER or is this nothing to worry about?
Posted Sun, 9 Sep 2012 in Bones, Muscles and Joints
Answered by Dr. Prasad 10 hours later


Thanks for the query.

The description of weird fluid filled lesion looking like an air bubble under the skin seems like a blister.

I wonder if you sustained an injury. Else I am unable to relate the shoulder, elbow and thumb pain with this blister type lesion on the shoulder.

Blisters are caused by friction injury, pressure sore or less likely due to an infection. It doesn't concern me. I suggest you wait for some time, may be a day and monitor the progress. If symptoms seem worsening, it needs a visit to the ER.

In the mean while you can take over the counter antiinflammatory analgesics like Advil 200mg twice a day. This would take care of the pain.

Avoid icing/warm compress on the shoulder where the blisters are located. And do not pop the lesion.

Hope this answers your query. Let me know if you have more enquiries.

Best Regards
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Fluid filled lump on shoulder, popping sensation when pressed, pain in shoulder, elbow and thumb. Should I go to ER? 18 minutes later
When it dispersed the bubble went away. It popped under the skin. There is no XXXXXXX on my skin, no scratch - no visible sign that there was ever anything there. No lesion at all. Just ache in my shoulder now that is not as bad as right after it happened.
Answered by Dr. Prasad 1 hour later

Hi and thanks again,

It is surprising to know that there is no remnant skin scabs where the blister like fluid /air filled lesion had been. It makes me doubt if you truly had a lump underneath the skin.

Fluid filled vesicle/blister usually leaves behind a scab once the fluid is drained. Closely examine the skin if you can find any scab. If there are none, then it is unlikely you had a fluid filled vesicle/blister.

Air filled lump under the skin usually accompany chest trauma, endotracheal intubation and other respiratory system manipulation and the condition is termed surgical/subcutaneous emphysema. Other possibility is clostridial infections resulting in gas gangrene - where you would also have other clinical symptoms like very tender muscles, crepitus along with necrotising skin discoloration. Again, usually the symptoms are preceded by previous injury/intramuscular injections/other trauma.
In the absence of the aforementioned clinical history/symptoms, I am unable to relate the air filled bump to any organic medical condition.

So perhaps the popping was heard from the shoulder joint and may be this is what is causing the shoulder pain.

Anyway as you are feeling better now, my suggestion to watch the progress remains the same. Emergency visit to the doctor is warranted if the pain worsens/if you develop fresh symptoms.

Hope you are satisfied with this response. Let me know if you have further enquiries.
If you have no other follow ups, please close this discussion.

Best Regards
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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