When Does Neck Cracking Need Medical Attention?

When you crack your neck, you’re stretching the cervical vertebrae and the ligaments that hold them together. You’re not actually cracking anything inside your neck; it just feels that way. Cracking your neck is generally safe, provided you do it correctly and go about it slowly. Because it doesn’t cause any long-term effects, most people won’t experience any negative side effects from cracking their necks several times a day.

However, there are some risks associated with cracking your neck too often or too hard. Any time you crack your neck, even if it feels good, you risk injuring the surrounding nerves or blood vessels. This can lead to pain and swelling that might persist for days or weeks afterward. It can also cause long-term issues if not treated promptly. 

What is Neck Cracking?

Neck cracking is the act of manually manipulating one’s neck in order to produce a popping sound. The popping sound is caused by the release of gas from the joints in the spine. Although neck cracking can provide temporary relief from neck pain, it can also lead to long-term problems. If you are experiencing neck pain, it is best to consult a doctor or other medical professional to determine the cause and appropriate course of treatment.

What is Crepitus?

Crepitus is the harmless cracking or grinding sound that a joint in the body makes when it’s moved. It’s caused by gas bubbles in the synovial fluid, which is the liquid that lubricates and cushions the joint. When these bubbles collapse, they create a popping or cracking sound. Crepitus is not usually a cause for concern, but if you experience pain or swelling along with the grinding sound, you should see your doctor.

Neck Cracking vs. Neck Crepitus

There is a difference between neck cracking and neck crepitus. Neck cracking is when you deliberately crack your neck, usually by stretching it or moving it in a certain way. Neck crepitus, on the other hand, is a naturally occurring phenomenon wherein your neck makes popping or clicking sounds. These sounds are caused by the rubbing together of your bones or the movement of gas bubbles in your joints.

Reasons for Neck Cracking

There are many reasons why people crack their necks. For some, it may simply feel good or relieve tension. For others, neck cracking may become a frequent habit, especially if they find that it provides relief from pain or discomfort. While infrequent neck cracking is generally considered harmless, cracking your neck too hard or too often could lead to joint damage or other problems.

When Neck Cracking Becomes a Medical Concern

Neck cracking is usually not a cause for concern. However, neck crack may become a concern if it is accompanied by pain or swelling. Neck crepitus, or cervical spine cracking, can also be a sign of arthritis. If you experience new cracking or grinding sounds when cracking the neck, you should consult a doctor. While some neck cracking is harmless and simply needs time to heal, others can be indicative of a more serious problem. If you are unsure whether or not your neck crack is cause for concern, it is always best to err on the side of caution.

Neck Cracking Following Trauma or Injury 

If you have suffered a neck injury or trauma, you may find that your neck cracks when you move it. This is perfectly normal and is nothing to worry about. However, if the cracking is accompanied by numbness or pain, you should seek medical attention as you may need additional medical intervention.

Contact a Spine Doctor for Neck Pain or Numbness

You see people, especially athletes, crack their necks every day. While it usually isn’t a problem, it can be if your neck is cracking without effort or you feel that you need to crack it often. It could be a sign that something is not right. 

Take the first steps to ensure that your neck is healthy and not at risk of developing a problem. Make an appointment to have your neck and spine health assessed. Call Orthopedic & Laser Spine Surgery at (866)-646-5090 to schedule an assessment.