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Is Cracking Your Neck Bad For You

Is Cracking Your Neck Bad For You?

Knuckle cracking is a common habit, having a prevalence of 25 to 45%. People habitually cracking their joints explain the feeling to be soothing and satisfying. Many individuals across the globe crack other joints too. One of the most commonly cracked joints is the neck joint.

Neck cracking is very common, especially among the young generation. While doers find these cracking sounds from neck cracks soothing, others fear the popping sounds. Thus, there is an ongoing debate about whether neck cracking is safe.

Today we discuss why you crack your neck and it is a safe thing to do. The article also discusses the risks associated with a neck crack.

Why Do People Crack Their Necks?

Poor posture and prolonged working can lead to a stiff neck. In some cases, this neck stiffness is accompanied by unilateral neck pain. In an attempt to relieve the pain and maintain a normal range of motion, many people try stretching the joint capsule, i.e., neck cracking. This activity is known to relieve pain. People claim that cracking the neck leads to an appreciable reduction in neck stiffness and tension.

Initially, it is an occasional thing, but gradually, you become addicted to crack. Astonishingly, the loud cracking sound from cracking a joint can bring peace to your body.

Although there is no association between audible cracking sound and pain relief, the sound can have some effect on internal chemicals. Contrary to the major studies, many clinicians believe that the cracking sound is necessary to improve spinal manipulation’s pain and function. However, one study investigating the effect of rotary manipulations concluded that there was some relation between the curative effect and the production of a popping sound.

According to a randomized controlled trial, cracking sounds have a positive mental effect. This maneuver releases endorphins and hormones that help lower mechanical pain. The internal chemicals released by neck cracking (and the cracking noise) include oxytocin and neurotensin. These hormones have a positive effect on the body. Thus, it can be said that the popping noise has a placebo effect.

Cause Of Cracking Sounds In The Neck

Many wonder what produces the pop when stretching the joint capsule. The underlying cause for the popping or cracking noise is not because of the readjustment of the joints but rather due to gas bubbles in the joints.

The extremely important structure neck is responsible for holding the head (with the brain included). Thus, the cervical spine (and all its associated tissues) is an important structure. Your spine bones are joined by facet joints. These specialized joints contain synovial fluid to reduce friction. To protect the joints, nature has provided us with a capsule that surrounds the joint.

In addition to the synovial fluid, you can find some gas inside the capsule. When you stretch the facet joints of the neck and the joint capsule along with it, it causes quick release of the gas. This gas then produces cracking noise. The production of this satisfactory popping sound from the joint is called cavitation.

In most cases, it is the nitrogen gas bubbles that release on cracking. The scientific name for nitrogen bubbles’ release is tribonucleation. You can also find other gases like oxygen and carbon dioxide. in the synovial fluid.

Is Neck Cracking Safe?

Yes, cracking your neck is a safe activity if it is done within limits and not on a regular basis. The problem is that not everyone has strong joints, and neck cracking quickly becomes a habit. There can be consequences if it is not done right.

Risks Of Neck Cracking

If done incorrectly or repeatedly, neck cracking can lead to some serious consequences. The risks associated with neck cracking include:

Increased Mobility Of Neck Joints

Persistent cracking of your neck can make the joint more mobile than normal. This hypermobility is induced by repeated stretching of the neck’s soft tissues (such as ligaments). Those who crack the neck frequently notice a larger range of motion than a normal neck joint.

Spasm Of Neck Muscles

Exerting too much pressure or forcibly cracking the head and neck can lead to strain of the muscles. Muscle strains are common among such individuals. Once the muscles get strained, it becomes really difficult to move the neck and perform daily activities.

Neck Pain (Due To Nerve Impingement)

You can pinch a nerve by moving abruptly moving the neck. Forcibly cracking the neck can impinge the nerves.

Symptoms of pinched nerves include neck pain that radiates down to the arm and numbness of the arm and head. Patients often complain if burning and tingling sensations along the neck and hand region.

A pinched nerve is not quick to treat and sometimes requires medical attention. The condition of the pinched nerve is called cervical radiculopathy. Thus, cracking your neck can lead to debilitation and disability.

Damage To Blood Vessels

A serious neck problem associated with cracking your neck is damage to important blood vessels. Your neck houses many essential vessels (arteries and veins, etc.) which supply blood to the head region. Compression of the vessels can compromise the blood flow, leading to different ailments.


The damage to the arteries of the brain can be life-threatening. If the damage to the vessel from cracking your neck causes blood clotting in the brain, it can lead to stroke. The most common type of stroke linked with neck cracking is ischemic stroke.

According to reports, neck cracking is associated with serious disorders such as stroke and cervical artery dissection. The chances of this happening are less, but it still can happen.

Cervical artery disection is a condition in which one of the major arteries of the neck gets torn. The condition rarely arises due to cracking. The main presenting features of the disease include dizziness, nausea and neck stiffness, etc.

Risk Of Osteoarthritis

If you crack your neck every now and then, you may permanently stretch your cervical ligaments. This permanent stretching of the soft tissues can lead to a condition called cervical instability or perpetual instability. This instability of the neck structure makes you prone to develop a chronic pain disorder, i.e., osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease characterized by joint disintegration and chronic pain. Studies suggest cervical instability patients are at a greater risk of developing cervical osteoarthritis.

When the soft tissues of your own neck are exposed to stretching every now and then, there are greater chances of degeneration and bone changes. Thus, a higher risk of developing bony projections and arthritis.

Is There A Safe Way To Crack Your Neck?

Yes, there is a safe way to crack your neck. The main aim of these guidelines is to apply less pressure on the joints and avoid forceful twisting of the neck. You should add stretching and strengthening exercises to your routine if you habitually crack.

Safe poses to crack your neck include:

  • Side stretch
  • Chin tuck (with the help of a towel)

You can also try massage equipment for this purpose. Cracking the neck with a foam roller is a safe alternative.

The most important point is to relieve the joint for at least 20-30 minutes before cracking again. Too much cracking can lead to the complications mentioned above.

When Should I See A Doctor For Cracking?

It is OK if your neck cracking does not pose any problem. However, you must visit a healthcare provider if experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain that radiates to the arm/shoulders
  • Numbness, burning, or tingling sensation in the neck and shoulder region
  • Severe headaches
  • Muscle weakness (in the arm and hand region)

Who Should I Visit For Neck Pain?

Chiropractic care is the most effective way to manage pain. A chiropractor identifies the underlying problem and provides treatment according to your needs. Abrupt stretching of the ligaments can be extremely painful for some. Such individuals should take guidance on how to stop cracking.


  1. What happens when you crack your neck too much?You can make your joint hypermobile. The permanent stretching of your ligaments induces perpetual instability in the joint, which lays the foundation for diseases chronic degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis. You can also damage your brain vessels and fall prey to serious health complications such as stroke.
  2. How often is it OK to crack your neck?Occasional cracking of the neck does not pose many problems. You can crack your neck once in a while, but regular cracking is discouraged. When cracking, be sure to stay gentle and avoid too much pressure.
  3. Why does neck cracking feel so good?Experts have found that the popping noise produced by cavitation (cracking) has a positive effect on mental health. It induces the release of endogenous chemicals, which lower pain and improve symptoms of anxiety/depression. This is why cracking feels so good.
  4. What is the benefit of cracking your neck?Chiropractors perform manipulation that is similar to self-cavitation. According to habitual crackers, it releases tension from the joints and improves the range of motion. However, most studies do not find any correlation between pain reduction and cracking. But the popping sound makes you feel good.
  5. Is chiropractic cracking safe?Yes, chiropractors are trained and licensed professionals who perform spinal manipulation with great care and skill. The skilled workers effectively remove trigger points and muscle tension and reduce soreness and inflammation. Spine adjustment is a proven way of alleviating chronic pain and inflammation.
  6. Why is my neck always stiff and cracking?Neck stiffness following cracking can be an indication of improper cracking. Too much pressure on the ligaments and neck muscles can lead to muscle strains and spasms. If you experience stiffness after cracking, there is a good chance you are cracking with excessive force, causing your neck muscle spasms.

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