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a professional therapist treating his patient’s neck pain

Is Cracking Your Neck Bad For You?

Have you ever woken up feeling stiff and sore in the morning? Do you also feel the urge to release that pressure and tension in your neck? We’ve all been there—the satisfying cracking sound of our joints when stretched is a relief. 

Some people purposely crack their necks out of a nervous habit. A quick stretch or pop of the neck brings some relief after sleeping in an awkward position for hours or perhaps lifting something heavy and bending over your desk all day. 

But cracking your neck without consulting a medical professional can cause more harm than good. We recommend seeking a licensed physical therapist or chiropractor, so they can properly adjust your back or neck.

What is a Cervical Spine Manipulation?

A Cervical Spine Manipulation is a neck adjustment technique utilized by chiropractors to treat neck pain, muscle tension, and stiffness. It’s a standard treatment for those experiencing neck discomfort, migraines and headaches, and even athletes who want to improve their performance.

What to Expect in Chiropractic Care Sessions

The chiropractor will conduct a physical examination and routine assessments to determine the cause of your neck and spinal condition. The test typically involves the following:

  • Motion tests
  • Palpation
  • Reflex testing
  • Muscle strength tests

Chiropractic Treatment Methods for Neck Pain

Your chiropractic treatment comes with the following methods:

  • Chiropractic adjustments to realign joints and muscles
  • Soft-tissue therapy to relieve spasms and tensions
  • Joint exercises and stretches to maintain joint stability
  • Integrated Muscle and Joint Therapy (IMJT) to achieve balance
  • Rehabilitation to reinforce the changes

What are the Benefits of Neck Cracking?

Neck cracking can also relieve discomfort and soreness. It provides many health benefits when done by a professional and licensed chiropractor, such as:

Gives You a Feeling of Pleasure and Satisfaction

Adjusting your neck can release endorphins in your joints. Your pituitary gland naturally produces feel-good hormones to help your nervous system cope with pain and stress.

Corrects Your Misaligned Joints

Self-cracking your neck can do more harm than good, often leading to spinal misalignment. However, if you turn to licensed therapists and chiropractors, they can help manipulate your joints to ensure they’re aligned.

Loosens Up Your Tight Muscles

Cervical Spine Manipulation helps decrease muscle stiffness and improve the blood circulation in your veins and arteries. Neck cracking has similar benefits to stretching exercises, in which you can gain better flexibility and muscle strength.

Relieves Your Fatigue and Stress

The most common benefit of neck cracking is getting relief from joint pain. Adjusting your neck the right way can release pressure to ease muscle soreness, reduce anxiety, and relieve migraine symptoms.

Improves Your Spinal Mobility and Posture

Chiropractic care is considered a safe and effective treatment for patients with neck pain, headaches, and migraines. Neck and spinal manipulation help restore mobility to weakened joints and tissues from falling or sitting without back support. It may also correct forward head posture by relieving soreness and stiffness on your neck.

Is It Bad to Crack Your Neck?

It’s typical for your neck to “crack” during normal movement since it’s maintaining its normal range of motion. However, when you force your body in a specific position to crack your neck, you risk causing instability in that area, possibly injuring the joints and surrounding soft tissues. 

Though self-cracking may provide quick and temporary relief, it typically doesn’t correct the joints behind stiffness, pain, or dysfunction. Instead, the noises you hear and movements you experience during self-adjustments are the movement and popping of the joints above and below the “stuck” joint. Therefore, we recommend you consult a professional to adjust a stiff, painful, or dysfunctional neck properly.

Chiropractors are trained in spinal and extremity adjustments and know the specific ranges of motions each joint should have. Therefore, they’re skilled at the proper way to correct the position and movement of your neck. These delicate adjustments are best left to the professionals. 

Common ways people self-adjust include:

  • Grabbing the back of a chair and twisting their spine
  • Lifting a leg and rotating their hips quickly
  • Pushing their chin or holding their head and chin to turn their neck
  • Simply over-stretching until they feel a crack

If you find yourself self-adjusting your neck regularly, it’s time to consult a professional and have them finally diagnose and correct the root cause of your discomfort.

What Injuries and Disorders Do Chiropractors Treat?

Chiropractors diagnose and treat injuries and joint disorders caused by musculoskeletal or nerve pain. To make an accurate diagnosis, your chiropractor will order X-rays or CT scans to confirm your condition and recommend what chiropractic method works best for you.

Below are some of the common neck conditions that chiropractors treat:

Neck Pain

From mild to severe neck pain, chiropractors concentrate on treating the underlying cause that affects the nerves, ligaments, and blood flow to your head and shoulder region. This is commonly treated by realigning the vertebrae in the neck to remove muscle spasms and restore its function.

Sprains and Strains

Many people acquire sprains and strains through physical activities or trauma-related incidents like exercising or lifting a heavy object. Some injure themselves while working out or playing a sport. When a muscle or tendon is overstretched or torn, it could lead to pain and swelling in the affected area. 

Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Tight or achy neck muscles can be caused by myofascial pain syndrome, in which the layer of connective tissues in your neck becomes damaged. The trigger points can cause deep and aching pain, where you can feel a knot in your muscle.

Herniated Disc

Most herniated discs occur in the back, but can also happen to your neck. Signs and symptoms depend on how severe the disc presses on the affected nerve. 

When to Consult a Chiropractor?

As a precaution, anyone experiencing pain, dizziness, lightheadedness, numbness, and tingling after neck cracking should immediately consult a qualified health professional. Seek medical attention right away if any of the following troubling symptoms accompany neck cracking or grinding sounds:

  • Frequent Pain: If the muscle soreness constantly increases over time every time you move your neck, that could signal a problem in your joint function.
  • Unusual Swelling: Any strange swelling in your neck could signify a fluid buildup or severe infection. The pain can also indicate serious inflammation or Osteoarthritis, which causes surrounding ligaments to wear down and stretch to unsafe levels.
  • Injury: If the spinal cord gets bruised after aggressive cervical manipulation, it could further complicate the inflammation in your neck.

Safely Relieve Your Neck Pain and Muscle Stiffness

So, are you still asking yourself, “is cracking your neck bad for you?” The answer is that it’s not necessarily bad to crack your neck, but it’s still best to seek help from a chiropractor.  Although it has risks, neck cracking has many health benefits if done by a medical professional. 

Consult LifeClinic now and restore your mobility in no time. You may also visit our website to check out our services and locations.

Dr. Reza Alizadeh

Dr. Reza is the visionary behind LifeClinic. His leadership is the foundation for the patient and team member experience, and overall direction of the LifeClinic. As the creator of IMJT, Dr. Reza continues to be the primary teacher on this technique.

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