What is Neck Cracking?
Cracking sounds that referring to neck cracking is the popping sound that occurs when quick motions loosen the joint and ligaments in the neck. These sounds, are usually painless and typically do not represent anything serious.
How Neck Cracking Happens?
There are three key reasons why the neck will crack:
Escaping gas (Cavitation)
In the neck, there are paired joints, known as facet joints that run up and down each side. Each of these facet joints has a capsule around it that is filled with fluid and gas. When the joint capsule is stretched, gas is rapidly released in the form of bubbles. This release of gas makes a popping or cracking sound.
If a tendon moves slightly out of place, it can make a snapping noise when it returns to its original position. The ligaments can tighten when the joint is moved and can make a cracking sound. This often occurs in the ankle or knee.
If a joint affected by arthritis, the cartilage can lose its smoothness. As a result, the joint surface becomes rougher and makes a noise when it moves.
Risk of Cracking Neck
People should not to try and crack their neck themselves if they are experiencing pain. This is because there a lot of nerves and blood vessels that run through the neck can be damaged if cracking is not done properly. Here are risks and side effects associated by cracking your neck:
Habit of neck cracking is more risky to having a stroke.Neck cracking can tear the vertebral artery which supplies blood to the brain.
Neck cracking has caused blood clotting in the neck which can stop the oxygen supply to the brain.
Cracking the neck puts pressure on the joints and turn to osteoarthritis, a condition where the tissue at the ends of bones becomes weaker.
Lack of mobility
Damage of the connective tissue in the spine happen each time the neck is cracked and if it happen over and over will affect mobility
Neck Cracking Causes
When you shift your neck, the surface tension in the bubbles increases eventually causing the bubbles to burst which results in popping sound.
Degenerative joint conditions, including arthritis, osteoarthritis, etc.because the synovial fluid in the joints dries up considerably which limits and inhibits normal mobility. Usually, it makes cracking sound when you try to move.
The function of the ligaments is to provide flexibility and mobility to the joints. At times the ligaments get caught in bony projections and when the neck is rotated or twisted these ligaments are let loose causing Neck Cracking.
Prior Injury to the Neck
Injury to the neck may add to the stress of the neck joints and may cause Neck Cracking.
Side Effect of Neck Cracking
- Cracking neck can be harmful if you don’t do it correctly or if you do it too often.
- Cracking neck too forcefully can pinch the nerves in your neck which are very painful
- Cracking neck too hard can also strain the muscles around your joints and the joints themselves which makes you can’t move your neck.
- Cracking neck a lot makes the ligaments in your joints permanently stretched. When this happens, your neck joints are more at risk of developing osteoarthritis.
- Cracking your neck too hard can puncture blood vessels which cause blood clotting that can be dangerous as it blocks blood flow to your brain.
- Consistent neck cracking could result in a TIA (transient ischemic attack, a minor stroke) but often the stroke could turn out to be fatal.
How to Diagnose Neck Pain that Causes Neck Cracking?
- Description of neck pain: Include When did the pain start and Are there any other symptoms in addition to neck pain.
- Lifestyle:Daily activities that can trigger neck pain worsen.
- Sleep habits
- Recent and Old injuries
If neck pain is the result of trauma or if it keeps coming back despite treatment efforts, diagnostic testing needed to get information about what might be the underlying medical cause. Diagnostic neck cracking testing options include:
- X-ray: X-ray (radiograph) gives a good picture of the bones to identify spinal degeneration, fractures, or even tumors.
- CT scan: CT scans are better than MRI’s for identifying subtle bone changes.
- Myelogram:For checking neck pain cause, a CT scan is often combined with a myelogram to get a better view of what’s going on with the bones, discs, and nerves.
- MRI scan: Unlike an X-ray or CT scan, an MRI can show soft tissues and does not use radiation.
- Electro diagnostic testing: These tests measure the speed at which electrical signals are being sent along nerves and give clues to the location where a nerve might have a problem.
- Bone scan: a bone scan can identify areas of increased bone activity. This can identify subtle fractures, as well as areas of bone degeneration, or boney areas affected by cancer.
- Laboratory blood tests for diseases, or somatosensory evoked potentials for possible spinal cord issues.
Neck Cracking Treatment
To get safely treatment, cracking the neck to relieve pain is should be done by a licensed chiropractors. Neck cracking through massage and stretching of the soft tissue by expert chiropractors has been shown to correct the positioning of the spine, and to relieve pain.
How to Reduce and Prevent Neck Pain without Neck Cracking?
- Get a routine professional massage
- Take over-the-counter pain medication
- Sleep in a firmer mattress or take new sleeping position
- neck stretching exercises
- putting ice or heat on the painful area to reduce pain and inflammation
- Avoid to carrying heavy shoulder bags or backpacks in a long period
- Stretching and yoga can help alleviate some of pain or discomfort that make you want to crack your neck.
- Get acupuncture treatment: Acupuncture points may provide relief to your neck problem.
When You Need to Get Medical Help
Normally, neck cracking most likely not indicates a problem. But you need to get a doctor immediately if neck cracking accompanies any of the following:
- Pain or swelling. If neck cracking get pain or swelling after it could indicate osteoarthritis or some other type of inflammatory process in the joints of the neck.
- Recent accident or injury. If the neck is making new cracking or grinding sounds after trauma that could indicate a structural change that needs to be addressed by a qualified health professional.
- Frequent or constant. If the neck cracking is constant, such as if that sound can be recreated every time or nearly every time the joint is moved that could be a signal of a problem in joint function.
- Recent surgery. Sometimes new neck sounds develop after surgery in the cervical spine. You need to visit doctor to make sure that this is not a harmful effect.
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