Is Cracking Your Neck Bad For You?
Do You Crack Your Neck?
Do you find yourself cracking your neck when it feels tight or sore? Are you doing this more and more lately? Do you wonder if cracking your neck bad for you?
If this sounds like you, you are not alone. This is a very common problem.
In this blog you will find out why it feels good to crack your neck, if it’s safe, and how to stop.
What Is The Cracking Sound?
First let’s be clear. The cracking sound has nothing to do with your neck being out or going back into place.
The sound you hear is actually caused by the creation of a gas bubble within the joint and is completely harmless, this effect is called tribonucleation (1). Latest scientific research using real time MRI to visualize what occurs within a joint supports this theory.
The truth is that every joint in your body can crack if pushed the right way. A joint going “crack” doesn’t mean that there was anything wrong with it at all.
Why Cracking Your Neck Feels Better
There are a number of reasons why this cracking sound feels so good.
When you stretch your neck you don’t just stretch the joints, you also stretch the muscles and ligaments that support it. This stretching is believed to increase your neck movement which may well explain why it’s better almost immediately.
Another theory why it feels good to crack you neck is that it may stimulate the release of endorphins in your brain (2). Endorphins are hormones that make you feel good for a short period. This may explain why you feel like you need to continuously crack your neck.
Remember, the relief you do feel comes primarily from the improved function of your neck, not the cracking sound you hear. Indeed, this improvement can be achieved without the cracking sound happening at all.
Why do you need to crack?
The role of your neck is to support and balanc your head on top of your shoulders. It also provides the movement of your head so that you can look up, down or turn your head from side to side. To do this your neck needs good stability from the joints, ligaments, and discs.
What we find with most patients who constantly crack their neck is that there are other spinal issues creating the neck problem. The most common causes are poor spinal function, poor posture, lack of exercise, poor ergonomics, poor sleeping habits and strain from daily tasks and jobs.
This means that the neck isn’t the problem at all, it’s just the place where the stress is going.
Whatever the cause, this feeling won’t stop until the underlying spinal problems are corrected. That’s where your chiropractor comes in.
How Can Chiropractic Help?
As chiropractors, we take a wholistic approach to your spinal function. Our aim is to get your spine working as well as possible and then keep it that way into the future. We achieve this with specific chiropractic adjustments that restore your spinal movement. This treatment is combined with specific spinal flexibility and strengthening exercises to strengthen your spine.
The most common regions of your spine that we see creating this neck stress are the areas between your skull and the top of your neck, between your shoulder blades and in your low back. When your spine is functioning well, you won’t feel the need to crack your neck at all.
We will also help you understand what you are doing in daily life that may be contributing to the problem.
Is Cracking Your Neck Dangerous?
Let’s be clear here. If your neck cracks when you are gently stretching your neck, it will not do you any harm.
If you start to forcibly twist your head around rapidly, even using your hands to force it to crack, you could damage your neck.
When you push your spinal joints beyond their normal range of motion, the spinal ligaments can overstretch. This could create joint hypermobility, making your spine unstable and causing more damage in the long run.
If your neck is hypermobile it could also lead to irritation of the nerves that exit from your neck and nerve supply down your arms. This is commonly referred to as a “pinched nerve” and can be very painful.
Does Neck Cracking Cause Arthritis?
It is currently believed that excessive movement in your neck can lead to wear and tear (arthritis) over a long period. At this point in time there is no scientific evidence proving that this is true.
How to Stop Cracking Your Neck
Stopping yourself from cracking your neck can be very hard at first. Constantly doing this over time can create a subconscious habit that becomes hard to stop.
The best ways to stop the urge to crack your neck are:
- have your chiropractor correct any spinal problems you have
- strengthen your neck muscles through specific stability exercises
- improve your neck flexibility through specific slow stretches
- maintain correct posture
- decrease the stress levels in your life
- upgrade your mattress and pillow
- modify your office and home ergonomics
- reach your optimum weight to reduce the stress on your spine
Do you feel that you need to keep cracking your neck? If so, it’s time to find out what is causing this feeling and how to correct it. Do not wait for your symptoms to get worse. Make an appointment today to find out how we can help you.
We hope you have found this blog helpful. Please leave a comment below and tell us how this blog has helped you.
(1) Kawchuk GN, Fryer J, Jaremko JL, Zeng H, Rowe L, Thompson R (2015) Real-Time Visualization of Joint Cavitation. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0119470. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0119470
(2) Vernon HT, Dhami MS, Howley TP, Annett R. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1986 Jun;9(2):115-23. Spinal manipulation and beta-endorphin: a controlled study of the effect of a spinal manipulation on plasma beta-endorphin levels in normal males.