Neck Cracking: The Dangers, Risks, and Why You Should Stop

Self-manipulation, I.E cracking knuckles and joints, is becoming more and more common amongst people that we see in the office. 

Some people report cracking their necks up to 30 times per day. Despite the constant twisting and cracking of the joints, people still report neck stiffness, tension and pain. If the solution to the problems was self-manipulation, then surely after the 30th time the problem would have been resolved?

It is often the first thing people do when they wake up and the last thing that they do before they fall asleep. By this point it is a well ingrained habit and people don’t even realise that they are doing it. When asked they are completely oblivious to the frequency until a partner or parent intervenes.

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What Happens When You Crack Your Neck?

When you crack your neck, the joint capsule becomes stretched to a point where the gases in your joint are pressurised until they pop. This is paired with an increase in movement locally and as a result of the fast stretch you get at the joint, we get a reflexive relaxation of the muscles crossing that joint. This is what makes the area feel temporarily more relaxed and people feel the relief that they are craving.

This reflexive relaxation is often short lived. After 5-10 minutes people often feel the tension they felt previously, urging them to twist and crack their neck again.

Our body is extremely intelligent, and pain and symptoms are often a way of the body communicating that something is wrong. When we stress the joints of our neck in this way, the place that we get the cracking sound from is often the mid cervical region (middle neck). 

From our experience, this is very rarely the area that we find issues. As a result, adding movement to this area is not going to solve most of the issues that people have in the long term. 

Neck cracking may provide short term symptomatic relief, but it will seldom get to the root cause. We often see that patients who visit the office and have a history of neck cracking have scans that are representative of high levels of stress and associated hyper-mobility (too much movement) in the mid cervical spine.

What Should I Do?

When people tell me either over the phone or in the examination that they are neck crackers, I tell them to stop. Continually adding movement to an already mobile joint is a fail-safe way to cause hyper-mobility, this can make cases much harder to solve. 

If neck cracking is something that you do then I would advise you stop doing it immediately, although things may feel uncomfortable short to medium term the associated symptoms you feel often resolve or settle. These issues may have also started because of spinal problems at an alternative place, so it is advisable to get your spine checked by an expert. 

Here at top chiropractic, we can assess your spine and correct any underlying issue that may be present.

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