Category: Neck Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: March 13, 2018
If you work a sedentary job or spend a lot of time looking down at your phone, you probably notice that your neck feels painful or stiff. Some of us try to loosen our necks by gently moving it from side to side, while others are a little more gung-ho about manipulating and crack their necks. However, if you’re not careful, cracking your neck can cause more harm than good. Today, we explain why you want to be careful when cracking your neck.
Cracking Your Neck
Before we explain why you need to be careful about cracking your neck, let’s explore the anatomy of what’s going on inside your body when your neck cracks. Throughout your body, your joints are covered in what’s known as synovial fluid, which helps to facilitate movement. Inside this fluid, you’ll find oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. When you crack your neck, you reduce pressure within the joint, and this reduction leads to the creation of bubbles from the gases found in the synovial fluid. It’s this release that leads to the cracking noise you hear when you crack your neck.
The reason you need to be careful when cracking your neck is not related to the release of the gases described above. Careful release of those gases and joint pressure reduction is completely fine, the problem lies in the fact that not everyone is careful when they crack their neck.
Your neck is home to a myriad of vital structures, including but not limited to muscles, ligaments, joints, spinal discs, nerves and your spinal cord. Gentle stretches and manipulation are unlikely to injure these structures, but the problem is that not everybody stretches gently. Some people enjoy the relief of that popping sound in their neck so much that they torque and stress their neck beyond a reasonable amount to free up every last gas bubble. Doing so also stresses muscles, ligaments and other structures, and if they are overstressed, injuries can occur.
Safe Neck Manipulation
Instead of cranking hard on your neck, consider these tips when your neck is feeling stiff, and you’ll reduce your risk of suffering a neck injury.
- Gently stretch your neck from side to side, front to back, and in a circle.
- If you’re dealing with chronic neck stiffness, consider adding regular cervical stretches to your daily routine, and evaluate your posture habits, as they are likely contributing to the stiffness.
- If neck stiffness remains chronic even after regular interventions, consider seeking out a spinal specialist to look for the root cause of discomfort and to suggest some manipulation exercises. They may also be able to safely perform manipulation exercises on your neck, which is safer than performing them on your own.
So the next time your neck feels stiff, keep these tips in mind and don’t just slam your neck to one side to crack it. For more neck cracking tips, or to talk to a spine specialist about your neck pain, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi today.