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Neck Cracking: Is It Safe or Should I Stop?

Cracking Your Own Neck

We’ve all seen people "crack" their necks to try to relieve pain or stiffness. Some of us do it to release the pressure or tension that we’re feeling in our shoulders or neck. Sometimes it’s a matter of habit, just like how we crack our knuckles. When you crack your neck, the action releases gas or fluid from the joints surrounding the neck. The cracking usually makes you feel better temporarily. However, it doesn’t alleviate the underlying problem.

What Makes the Popping or Cracking Sound in my Neck?

This sound is caused by the release of gas from between the spinal segments that naturally occur in the spaces of the joints. When you crack your neck or any joint in your body, the capsules around your joint are stretched. These capsules contain fluid, and stretching them allows the fluid to put less pressure on the joint. As the pressure decreases, the fluids in the joint will turn to gas, hence getting a popping noise.

But those cracking sounds that you hear when you self-adjust are just releases of air pockets and this does not correct the misalignment in your spine. The correction of a subluxation (dysfunction within the spine ) is not merely just popping a joint. When getting a proper Chiropractic adjustment, the Chiropractor is able to locate the dysfunctional and subluxed joint through examination and adjust it in a way that is comfortable and safe. Chiropractic is all about making sure the signals and communication between your brain and body is doing well, so that your body functions as it was designed to. But when you crack or twist own neck and back, there is no control as to which joint you are targeting and often results in normal joints being popped.

A chiropractor may also advise you on how to change your lifestyle, such as exercising or maintaining a moderate weight, to minimize neck pressure or pain. They may also give you tips on how to treat your neck at home.

Risks of Cracking Your Own Neck

Cracking your neck can be harmful if you don’t do it correctly. It may cause:

  • pinched nerve
  • wear and tear on the vertebrae
  • strain muscles around the joint
  • hypermobility due to overstretched ligaments

Alternative Methods to Relief Neck Pain

Many people experience neck pain because of poor posture and muscle strain. If you have minor neck pain or stiffness, avoid cracking your own neck and take these simple steps to relieve it:

  • Apply ice for the first few days to reduce inflammation
  • Take a few days off from sports, activities that aggravate your symptoms, and heavy lifting. When you resume normal activity, do so slowly as your symptoms ease.
  • Practice good posture.
  • Exercise your neck every day. Slowly stretch your head in side-to-side and up-and-down motions. You can also watch this video to learn some simple neck stretches from Dr Jessie Lim.

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