How to Crack Your Own Neck—Tips From Chiropractors

Jan 6, 2022

How to Crack Your Own Neck—Tips From ChiropractorsMany people who experience neck pain develop a habit of “cracking” or popping their necks to relieve this pain and pressure. If you’ve ever done this, you may have also heard people tell you it’s dangerous and should be avoided. So what do chiropractors say? While cracking your neck isn’t always dangerous, it should usually be done by a professional as part of comprehensive neck pain treatment plans. Understanding why your neck cracks and why you feel relief may also help you determine the proper next steps in your treatment.

Why Your Neck Cracks

The popping sound you hear when you crack your neck is not related to the bones at all, but is instead a process known as cavitation. Your joints contain synovial fluid, which lubricates them and allows for movement, but can also build up and form gas bubbles in the spaces. These gas bubbles cause feelings of pain or pressure that lead to cracking your neck when they are released. The sound you hear is these gases being released and the bubbles popping. Cavitation is not dangerous and should not be painful, but it usually brings relief.

In some cases, the popping noise can also result from the movement of the tendons and ligaments in your neck, which may be more dangerous. Conditions like arthritis and injury can also cause sounds, as well as other symptoms like swelling or pain upon cracking. If this is the case, you should see a doctor.

Should I Crack My Own Neck?

Cracking your neck is not inherently dangerous, but it is also not likely to solve the underlying problem causing your pain. If you feel the need to crack your neck on a consistent basis, it can be a sign that there is a misalignment in your cervical spine or another condition causing pain and buildup of gas. While the cracking will temporarily relieve these symptoms, they will likely return quickly as the problem is still present.

Even though occasional neck cracking is safe, repeating the action over time can carry some risks. If you don’t correctly crack your neck, you can cause acute pain in the spine and neck, stretch the ligaments, or damage your vertebrae through wear and tear. Certain conditions, like scoliosis, can also be exacerbated when you crack your neck.

Never crack your neck if you notice dizziness or fainting, numbness around the head, or sudden chest pain with shortness of breath.

Safety Tips for Cracking Your Own Neck

If you are feeling pain or repeatedly cracking your neck, the first thing to do is make an appointment with a chiropractor to look into the cause of your symptoms. While you wait for your appointment, it’s best to avoid too much cracking. If you do need to do so, follow the below procedure to ensure you are safe.

Start by stretching your neck, looking down, and then up slowly several times. Lie prone on the ground and crack your neck by placing a foam roller under it, moving the body up and down. Do not grab your head and jaw to twist your neck into place, as this can be dangerous if you do so too forcefully or at the wrong angle.

Never crack your neck two times in a row. It takes about 20 minutes for the neck to return to its original position after being cracked, and you should not attempt before then. If the problem is gas, it will not have built back up in this timeframe, so the need to do so indicates another more serious problem.

Do Chiropractors Crack My Neck?

When you visit the chiropractor for neck pain treatment, you may hear sounds that are similar to those you hear when you crack your own neck. During an adjustment, there may be a release of the same gases in the joints that cause those sounds. However, some of the sounds are created by other manipulations of the spine that help place it into alignment. You may even feel these “pops” during the adjustment- they may feel sudden and startle you, though they are usually not painful.

Attempts at adjustments should never be made on your own. Only chiropractors are trained to provide exceptional spine care. At AICA Orthopedics, our chiropractors will do a thorough physical examination to determine if cracking your neck may be safe and what other treatments are best suited to bring you relief. Contact us today for your first appointment!


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