Is Cracking Your Neck Bad For You?

Occasionally we tend to feel pain in our neck and in an attempt to provide some relief, we crack, pop or twist it quickly from side to side.

What Causes Cracking Sounds In The Neck?

Some things can cause cracking or popping sounds in the neck. Some of them may be due to:

1. Ligaments And Muscle Movements

After sitting at your laptop or using your laptop on your bed for too long with your neck hanging over your laptop, you may feel a crack noise in your neck as you try to assume straighten your neck. The muscles may be moving on each other or moving against a bone while being in the “hanging head” posture for too long.

2. Escaping Gas 

We all know that sound we hear when we crack our knuckles. It does not cause pain. The sounds are said to happen when tiny bubbles that form in the synovial fluid pop and make a popping or crack-like sound. This is usually known as cavitation.

3. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the joints in the body. It is an age-related condition meaning it may happen, as we grow older. It is usually caused by the wear and tear of the bones and the cartilages between these bones. So imagine the lubricant between your bones reducing and the bones rubbing against each other, you may hear cracking sounds while moving your neck.

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When Is Neck Cracking Bad?

Occasionally ‘cracking’ your neck isn’t that bad but when it becomes a persistent habit, it may be associated with some health problems.

Cracking your neck may become serious when you start experiencing the following:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Neck stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Tingling sensations in your arms or fingers

Possible Complications

Major blood vessels and nerves go through the cervical bones to carry out their many functions. Cracking your neck repeatedly may lead to the following:

1. Stroke

The vertebral artery and other major blood vessels pass through the cervical spine. Repeated cracking may occlude or tear the vertebral artery, which may lead to reduced blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which can lead to a stroke.

2. Neck Stiffness

Cracking your neck all the time can lead to a muscle strain or ligament sprain and it may then get difficult to move your neck.

How To Stop Cracking Your Neck

  1. Work on your mind. Make a conscious effort to stop cracking your neck when you feel pain.
  2. Stretch. Instead of cracking, stretch your neck. Some neck stretches that you can do are:
    • Turning your head from side to side. Your chin to your shoulder
    • Bending your head. Your ear to your shoulder and not your shoulder to your ear
  3. Use an ice pack. You can make yours or get reusable ice packs that can be left in the freezer or fridge. This will help relieve any pain or strain at your neck
  4. Assume a correct posture at all times. Either sitting or sleeping or standing, ensure that your neck is kept in a neutral position. There is a tendency for us to drop our heads when using our phones or laptops and then later have a forward head posture, which can cause pain and may lead to you cracking your neck.
  5. Use a firm mattress and firm pillows while you sleep. Ensuring your spine is well aligned as you sleep will reduce any form of pain that may tempt you to crack your neck when you wake up in the morning.

Conclusion

Occasionally cracking your neck won’t cause serious health problems. However, if it becomes a habit, it can be dangerous as there is a small chance of a stroke or neck stiffness. If you have chronic neck pain, it’s advisable to see your doctor about it instead of attempting to ‘crack it away’.

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