Just like you wouldn’t walk into the nearest A and E and attempt to take out your own appendix, you shouldn’t attempt to “crack” your own neck! Any kind of manipulation to the spine is something that should be left to the professionals.
Now that we’ve cleared that one up, let’s get to the question that’s probably at the forefront of your minds: Why does your neck crack involuntarily?
Our Ealing chiropractor explains that the neck is made up of seven cervical bones (vertebrae) that are supported by muscles, ligaments, and tendons. These provide mobility and support to the head and neck, which allows you to easily bend, twist and move them. Sometimes, however, excessive or persistent stress can cause the neck to produce a “cracking” or “popping” sound when twisted.
Here are some factors that could be contributing to your noisy neck:
Thick fluid surrounds each of the seven joints in your neck to provide lubrication for movement. Nitrogen and carbon dioxide gas are contained within this fluid, which can form bubbles. When the neck joints are moved, the pressure inside the bubbles can increase and eventually the bubble can burst. This process, known as cavitation, is what results in the common “cracking” sound.
Ligaments provide joint support where two or more bones meet. They also facilitate joint mobility. Sometimes, bones have projections that are raised where ligaments can get stuck. These are then let loose when the neck is moved. Neck cracking can occur when there is a slippage of ligaments from the face of the bone projection.
Conditions such as osteoporosis and arthritis are often associated with joint roughening. These conditions lead to degenerative bone changes in the neck that can cause cracking when moved.
Cervical osteoarthritis can also develop with age. After the age of 50, the spongy discs between the cervical vertebrae lose their ability to provide a natural cushion between the bones. As the vertebrae and their ligaments thicken, they intrude into the space between the bones, reducing the size of the space. This can result in neck stiffness and pain, and can also leads to neck cracking.
Remember that your neck contains arteries, blood vessels and your spinal cord, so treat it with care! A trained chiropractor will be able to help you with your neck pain and stiffness and evaluate the cause of your symptoms.
Always seek professional advice if your neck cracking is accompanied by pain.