Benefits and Risks of Cracking Your Neck
Have you ever felt a stiffness in your neck that just demands relief – right now? Maybe you slept wrong or lifted something heavy. Or maybe you just spent too long hunched over your keyboard at your desk.
Cracking your neck and other joints is a common habit. Many people crack their knuckles, fingers, backs, and necks. You might do it to relieve pressure and stiffness or it might have started that way and now is simply a habit.
But are there benefits to cracking your neck? And more importantly, are there dangers? Read our article about cracking your neck to find out the benefits and risks involved in taking matters into your own hands, so to speak, and what might be a better option to find that elusive relief you’re seeking.
Why Does My Neck Make A Popping Sound When I Crack It?
The popping sound your neck makes when you crack it isn’t harmful and isn’t the sound of something actually breaking or snapping.
Joints contain a fluid known as synovial fluid, which supports the smooth movement of the bones. When you crack your neck (or any joint), you’re stretching the fluid-filled capsules that surround the joint. When they’re stretched, they put less pressure on the joint, which turns the synovial fluid – consisting of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and oxygen – into gas bubbles. This transformation makes a popping noise and is known as boiling or cavitation.
The neck has several sets of joints, called facet joints, located on each side of your neck. The popping that occurs when the fluid becomes gas feels like a release of pressure, which is why people say they get relief from cracking their neck or other joints.
Is Cracking Your Back/Neck Helpful or Harmful?
Cracking your neck can benefit you; however, it’s important to talk to your chiropractor before doing it. If you do it incorrectly, too often, or too forcefully, you can actually cause damage, making you feel more pain than you felt before you cracked your neck. Your chiropractor can help determine if cracking your neck is safe for you and recommend other ways to ease neck pain and stiffness.
A study published in 2011 revealed that going to a chiropractor to have your neck cracked can result in a positive mental state due to the association of the popping noise with the release of pressure. People enjoyed the successful alignment of the joint and the resulting relief from stiffness. In some cases, a placebo effect occurred with the popping noise, and people felt better even if there was no pressure released or the joint wasn’t successfully adjusted.
There’s also evidence that cracking the neck releases endorphins, which are produced in the pituitary gland and are released to help deal with pain. When endorphins are released in the neck, you experience a feeling of pleasure.
Is Cracking Your Own Neck Dangerous?
While there are benefits to having your neck cracked, it can be dangerous if you do it incorrectly or too often.
You can pinch nerves in your neck if you do it too forcefully. This can cause extreme pain, making it difficult or even impossible to move your neck. Cracking your neck incorrectly can also strain the muscles and joints in your neck, which can also cause pain and immobility.
If you have the urge to crack your neck often, you may be experiencing hypermobility. You may have a larger range of motion in your neck than normal. As you continue to crack your neck when the urge arises, the ligaments in your joints become permanently stretched, resulting in perpetual instability. If this happens to you, you’re more likely to develop osteoarthritis in your neck joints.
The important blood vessels in your neck are in danger of being punctured if you crack your neck too often. You may also experience blood clotting, which can block the flow of blood as it travels to your brain.
Why Do Chiropractors Crack Your Neck?
When you go to the chiropractor, you may discover that you need your neck cracked. There are three main reasons why a chiropractor will do this:
- Joint Mobility: Cavitation reduces pressure in the joint cavity, which results in increased joint mobility.
- Realignment of the Tendons and Ligaments: Injury to the neck can cause the tendons to move from their original location, which can cause pain. Chiropractic manipulation returns the tendons and ligaments to the correct place.
- Neck Arthritis: This condition can cause the cartilage in the neck to become rough, causing a cracking or creaking sound when the joints move. Neck manipulation reduces friction and increases flexibility, while relieving pain and decreasing inflammation.
Should I See A Chiropractor To Crack My Neck?
If you are regularly cracking your neck and never seem to feel satisfied, you should see a chiropractor to get your joints realigned. This treatment will help ease the urge to continuously crack your neck.
You should also visit your chiropractor if you experience any of the following:
- Unusual swelling in your neck, which is a sign of fluid buildup, injury, or infection.
- Pain in your neck, particularly chronic pain without a cause that isn’t affected by any treatments.
- Immobility related to age or a condition, such as osteoarthritis.
Not only can chiropractors manipulate your joints, which can stop the pressure that makes you want to crack your neck, they can also give helpful advice to minimize neck pressure or pain, such as lifestyle changes like losing weight or exercising. They may also give you tips on treating neck pain at home, including hot or cold compresses on your neck to reduce pain and inflammation.
If you’ve been experiencing neck pain or pressure that makes you want to crack your neck often, then schedule a chiropractic appointment online or call us today.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.