Each of us has heard a snap, crackle or pop when moving our joints, and whether it’s through everyday movement, purposeful manipulation, or a chiropractic adjustment, the noise is usually met with the perception of relief and better alignment. In the age of mobile devices, more of us are feeling the physical strain of “Tech Neck” than ever before, and many seek relief from their neck pain by twisting and pushing to “crack” their necks. What really happens when you crack your neck, and how dangerous could it really be?

Snapping the Spine

The cervical spine consists of the 7 vertebrae between the skull and the chest, and together, they form the most flexible part of our spines. Great mobility requires great stability, so the neck has 26 muscles and webs of soft tissues like inter-vertebral discs, ligaments, tendons and nerves that support its structure, facilitate movement, and connect the head to the torso.

What’s in the Sound?

Some scientists have conflicting ideas about what actually causes the snapping or cracking noise when we adjust areas like the neck, but it is widely believed that it’s the release of gas bubbles in the lubricating fluid within the joints.

  • This popping is also called crepitus, and the sound is considered to be harmless unless it’s associated with pain.
  • In some cases, degeneration in a joint can cause arthritic changes that result in a crackling or snapping bone-on-bone noise.
  • It may also result from the painful snapping of tendons or ligaments over bone.

What’s the Benefit?

An increasingly common diagnosis in our population is “Tech Neck,” or neck pain caused by poor posture around the use of mobile devices. The forward reaching and downward facing angles of our 12lb. heads impose up to 60lbs of pressure on the neck, which can lead to muscle strain, fatigue and long term postural changes.

  • When we adjust our own structural misalignments, we feel as if we’re moving and stretching muscles, which may provide some relief.
  • Often, the cracking sound is associated with a relief of pressure and a rush of endorphins to a strained area, which gives us a “feedback feel-good.”

What are the Dangers?

Unfortunately, getting safe neck pain relief isn’t as simple as twisting to one side to “crack” your own neck. You may run the risk of damaging sensitive tissues in the neck, and there is the potential for permanent injury.

  • Many nerves pass through the bones and muscles in the neck, and twisting too far can lead to compressed nerves, misalignments, and worsening pain.
  • Pushing the head to achieve a “crack” may stretch ligaments beyond their natural ranges of motion, which can lead to structural instability and muscles that strain to maintain balance.

What Else Can You Do?

There are plenty of safe options for relieving neck pain, and they should all start with seeing your Chiropractor. These physicians are specifically trained to work with the entire spine and to fix any misalignments and imbalances that could be contributing to instability and pain.

  • Physical manipulations can realign the joints that could be compressing nerves.
  • Muscle work like physical therapy can improve imbalances and strain.
  • Non-surgical pain management alternatives can reduce inflammation from old injuries to assist in healing.

Need to Quit Cracking?

At B3 Medical, we understand the physical, mental and emotional strain of acute and chronic neck pain, and it shows in our commitment to offer safe and effective treatment options for fast neck pain relief. Our staff of medical professionals provides a comprehensive treatment protocol that leaves our patients educated and empowered in choosing the right options for them. Contact us today if you’re interested in non-surgical alternatives for neck pain relief!