Everyone is familiar with the sounds of cracking joints. You or someone you know probably crack their knuckles, fingers, or even their toes. Some people even crack their backs or necks. You may have heard many rumors and contradicting information about whether cracking your joints is good for you, especially cracking your spine. For some, cracking joints is about releasing built-up pressure, while others do it because it has become a habit. No matter your reason for cracking your joints, it’s important to understand whether cracking your neck is dangerous or helpful to your body. There are ways to crack your neck gently and only occasionally, but for the best results, you want to visit your chiropractor in Austin. Chiropractors work with the spine and joints to help relieve aches and pains, address injuries and health conditions, and even help you improve healthy functioning. Here’s what you need to know about the potential risks and what happens when you try to crack your neck.
What Happens When You Crack Your Neck?
When you tilt your head to one side and hear a cracking sound, you might wonder what is actually making that sound. The cracking or popping sound can sometimes be alarming, but the sound does not have anything to do with bones cracking or breaking. In fact, that sound you hear when cracking your neck or other joints is the sound of pressure releasing in the area. While you move your joints around, capsules around your joints stretch, and fluid moves around inside those capsules. These fluids can turn to gas, which can make a popping noise when you move a certain way. The build-up of pressure can sometimes cause a physical sensation that leads you to want to crack your neck or other joints to release some of that pressure.
Facet Joints in the Neck
Your neck specifically includes what are called facet joints along either side of your neck. Facet joints stretch when you move and engage in motions like turning your head and neck to the side for that cracking sensation. When you do this, the fluid inside these facet joints spreads out inside the capsule and turns to gas. Once the fluid has turned into gas, it creates that common cracking or popping sound you are familiar with and can even provide a temporary sensation of relief. In fact, cracking your neck and other joints can release hormones called endorphins that can relieve pain, reduce stress, and improve your mood. This sudden release of endorphins from cracking your neck can make you feel better physically and mentally.
Is Cracking Your Neck Good for You?
So how do you know whether cracking your neck is good for you? Cracking your neck every now and then does not cause any harm when done gently. Because of how cracking your neck releases endorphins that boost your mood and reduce pain and stress, you can even feel a sense of relief afterward. While it is possible to crack your neck on your own, it is generally recommended to save that for the professionals. When you visit your Austin chiropractor, they have the tools and expertise to crack your neck that will do more than provide a temporary sense of relief. Chiropractors use a technique known as chiropractic adjustments to resolve misalignments in the spine, which can include what you know as cracking your neck. However, they also incorporate other techniques to address the root cause of the pressure, pain, or discomfort so you can experience longer-lasting relief.
What are the Dangers of Cracking Your Neck?
While it is generally considered okay to crack your neck gently on occasion, doing so too often, too forcefully, or incorrectly can actually make your pain and discomfort get worse, not better. If you try to crack your neck too forcefully, you might end up straining your neck muscles or pinching a nerve. If you feel like your neck needs to pop, you should be able to tilt your head to the side and the pop to occur more naturally. Using your hands to put pressure on your head and neck to pop your neck can end up putting too much pressure on your spine and cause uncomfortable symptoms. These are three ways cracking your neck on your own can negatively impact you:
Increase in Symptoms
If you find yourself trying to pop your neck to relieve tension or pain in your neck, you could accidentally end up making it worse instead. If you crack your neck improperly, you could aggravate nearby nerves and experience pain, tingling, and numbness that extends into your extremities. The muscles in your neck could also become strained, which can make simple movements like turning your head feel uncomfortable or painful.
Some people experience hypermobility, which means their joints have a wider range of motion than the average person. If you have hypermobile joints, the ligaments and tissues that support your joints might be too loose, and muscles that support your neck might be too weak. This can lead to you feeling like you need to crack your neck.
Cracking your neck on your own could also lead to instability over time. The muscles and ligaments that provide support to your head and neck can become overstretched or loosened permanently, leaving the area unstable. Perpetual instability in your neck from cracking your neck too much on your own can put you at greater risk of developing other issues with your joints.
What to Do Instead of Cracking Your Neck
If you often feel the urge to pop or crack your neck, there are some options available to you that you can do at home. Here are two things to try instead of cracking your neck to help relieve pressure, tension, or discomfort in your neck:
Stretch Your Neck
Stretching your neck and upper back muscles can help by increasing your strength and stability in the area. Try gentle stretching techniques that help improve your range of motion and keep your muscles and tissues healthy and flexible so they can better support your neck.
Focus on Your Posture
Try to pay better attention to your posture throughout the day. Many people experience increased neck strain and pain because of poor posture. Whether you sit at a desk all day or often find yourself looking down at your phone in your hand, that forward head posture can lead to pain and discomfort that may become chronic without the proper attention and care. Instead, try to remind yourself throughout your day to roll your shoulders back, lift your chin, and keep your eyes focused straight ahead when you can. This reengages the healthy posture your neck’s muscles, ligaments, and joints were designed to hold and helps everything work better.
When to Consult a Chiropractor for Neck Pain
If you start noticing an increase in pain or discomfort that won’t go away with attempts at home, then talk to your chiropractor about your neck pain. Our chiropractors at Pro-Care Medical Centers offer an all-natural solution to resolving neck pain through chiropractic adjustments and other beneficial techniques. Whether you are dealing with neck pain from poor posture or neck pain after a car accident, our team of chiropractors is here to help you. Visit a Pro-Care Medical Center location near you to get started with a chiropractor you can trust to help you experience lasting relief from your neck pain and other symptoms.