Neck Cracking

Neck Cracking– neck cracking is a habit of some individuals who attempt to constantly crack their neck for tension relief. However, habitual Neck Cracking can cause some unwanted and potentially serious complications like osteoarthritis or even stroke. This article will discuss about what some of the complications of Neck Cracking are and how to get relief from Neck Cracking by performing some stretching exercises.

What Is Neck Cracking?

Neck Cracking is a crackling sound which is produced when an individual twists or turns the neck constantly in order to relieve tension just like people do with their knuckles. People usually do this when getting up first thing in the morning or getting up sitting for prolonged period of time. There may also be an audible pop along with the crackling sound and this gives an individual some relief from tension in the muscles of the neck. Although Neck Cracking may be relaxing but it can become a cause of some harmful medical conditions like osteoarthritis etc.

What Is Neck Cracking

What Are The Causes Of Neck Cracking?

There are seven bones which constitute the neck called as cervical vertebrae which are supported by muscles, tendons, and ligaments, which give support to the head and the neck and make the neck mobile and allows it to move smoothly. However, as a result of constant stress on the neck muscles, there may be a resultant crackling sound when the neck is twisted. Usually it is not harmful but if there is accompanying pain then a medical consultation is advisable. Some of the causes of Neck Cracking are:

Cavitation: The seven joints in the neck are surrounded by synovial fluid which acts as a lubricant during motion of the neck. This synovial fluid contains gasses like nitrogen and carbon dioxide which may form bubbles and due to increase stress on the neck these bubbles may burst resulting in a popping sound. This process is known as cavitation and is one of the primary causes of Neck Cracking.

Ligaments: The function of the ligaments is to provide flexibility and mobility to the joints. At times the ligaments get caught in bony projections and when the neck is rotated or twisted these ligaments are let loose causing Neck Cracking.

Joints: Medical conditions like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis can also cause Neck Cracking.

Prior Injury to the Neck: An individual may injure the neck while performing heavy lifting or other strenuous activity. Athletes or gymnasts also are prone to frequent neck injuries. This injury to the neck may add to the stress of the neck joints and may cause Neck Cracking with movements.

How Safe Is Neck Cracking?

Neck Cracking, as stated, may bring relief from stress but it can also cause unwanted and potentially dangerous complications, some of which are illustrated below:

Neck Pain: Habitual Neck Cracking can result in reduced neck range of motion with time as a result of the cartilages getting damaged due to constant stress and motion of the neck resulting in degeneration of the bones causing arthritic condition resulting in neck pain.

Osteoarthritis: Habitual Neck Cracking results in excessive stress on the neck joints resulting in the ligaments getting overly stretched. The ligaments thus become unstable resulting in bone bridging. With time, this can lead to osteoarthritis.

Stroke: Literature has shown that some people with habitual Neck Cracking end up with stroke. Repeated Neck Cracking can result in serious injuries to the blood vessels in the cervical spine. Once the arteries get damaged or ruptured there are significantly high chances of bleeding and in turn formation of blood clots. Once a blood clot is formed, it can block blood flow to the brain resulting in stroke. A habitual Neck Cracker needs to look out for the following symptoms and if he or she observes any of the following symptoms then he or she should go to the physician immediately:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Blurry vision
  • Dysphasia 
  • Unrelenting headache 

Stretching Exercises For Neck Cracking

To get relief from Neck Cracking, one can perform the following stretching exercises:

Exercises: While working, since the neck is maintained in one position for a prolonged period of time it causes the joints to become stiff making it difficult to move the neck. One can practice the following exercise for relief. To do this exercise, lower the head out in front till the chin touches the chest. Try and keep the head in this position for as long as possible and then come back to normal position. This exercise decreases the strain on the neck joints considerably and makes it loose.

Joint Motion: If the joints and muscle become tight in the neck, then one can slowly stretch the neck so as to ease off the tension. This stretch is helpful in increasing blood flow to the region.

Sternocleidomastoid Exercises: The sternocleidomastoid muscle is present on each side of the neck and may cause a lot of pain due to Neck Cracking. To relieve this pain, one can stretch this muscle by turning the head to one side as far as possible. There may be some discomfort but one needs to bear it and maintain this position. After maintaining this position for about half a minute do the same in the other direction.

Immediate medical attention is required in case there are symptoms of osteoarthritis, unrelenting neck pain or the symptoms of stroke as mentioned above.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: October 13, 2015

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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