How to Stop Cracking your Neck

Cracking one's neck might feel good and relieve the built-up tension, but it is in fact a very harmful habit. Let us understand how to go about stopping this and why it is necessary to do so.
WellnessKeen Staff
Last Updated: Mar 22, 2018
The uncontrollable urge to crack one's neck muscles comes in every time there is tightening felt in the area. So then one proceeds to crack their neck and the relief felt is quite immense, no doubt; but then the muscles start to tighten again and the cracking happens again, and by the end of the day, the neck muscles are all sore. Though cracking one's neck feels good, it is a temporary solution and one that does more harm than good. Why does the urge to crack one's neck come in, why is it harmful and how does one go about stopping it? All these queries will be answered in the following sections.

Why Does Neck Cracking Feel Good?
Our neck is made up of several bones and muscles which allow the head to move freely. When a person has been in one position for a long time (staring at the computer screen, for example), it leads to the tightening of muscles and the neck starts to feel stiff. Thus comes in the urge to crack one's neck. When a person cracks their neck, it helps to stretch out the stiff muscles and joints and release the tension that has built up. In the sudden movement of cracking, a vacuum is created between the joint and muscle, and the joint fluid gets filled with nitrogen gas, such that when the bone comes back to its normal position, it pushes out the gas. This is what leads to the pop and crack sound. This entire exercise leads to some form of relief from a stiff neck.

Is Cracking One's Neck Harmful?
Constant cracking of your neck will lead to the stretching of ligaments that help support and stabilize the neck joints, which is quite risky because ligaments do not repair themselves easily. This can in turn lead to several health problems. The following are certain conditions that may develop with constant neck cracking.

Hypermobility
With constant cracking, the ligaments lose their natural ability to stretch, and their springy quality is lost. This condition is called hypermobility. As the ligaments become lax, the small muscles that are responsible for connecting one vertebra to the next become tight and require more efforts for normal functioning -- that is why the neck starts to feel tight. When you crack your neck, it loosens the tight muscles, but along with that it also loosens the already loose ligaments.

Osteoarthritis
When there is too much pressure put on the joints, it automatically puts a lot of stress on the ligaments, this in turn leads to the increase of instability at every pop and crack because the joint is stretched beyond its limit and not allowed to come back to its original position. This may cause a bone structure to develop in an effort to stabilize the joint. Which is what eventually leads to osteoarthritis.

Blood Clotting
The constant cracking of one's neck can also cause clotting of the blood due to a tear in the artery -- thus blocking oxygen supply to the brain and leading to further complications.

Heart Strokes
The cervical arteries that pass through the neck get damaged with constant cracking of one's neck and could therefore lead to heart strokes.

How Do You Stop Cracking Your Neck?
So now that we know the kind of harm that could be caused with constant neck cracking, it becomes imperative to learn how to stop this habit. Here are a few steps on how to go about it.

☛ Consciously decide to cut the habit out. If you are aware that you've gotten into the habit, only then can you try to do something about it.

☛ The next time you have the feeling that you want to crack your neck, look down. Looking down helps to draw out the built in tension in the neck muscles and ligaments, and leads to relief.

☛ Do light head rolls as opposed to forceful neck cracks and you'll find that the built in tension is ebbing away quite effectively.

☛ Follow a cycle of turning your head from side to side, then front to back, and then from ear to ear over the neck. All these simple exercises will help to relax your neck and loosen stiff muscles without causing damage to the neck joints and ligaments.

☛ Try this simple exercise -- take a deep breath and exhale to relax yourself. Then take your hands behind your neck and place them such that the fingers meet in the middle of the neck. Press into the neck exerting moderate pressure and hold for about 30 seconds. Then lower your neck so that your chin is resting above your collarbone, and slowly release the pressure from the muscles. Keep your head down for 30 seconds longer.

☛ You can try some neck strengthening exercises to build strength into the weak muscles. This will automatically arrest the biting urge to crack your neck constantly.
  • Chin Tucks ~ Stand with your back and neck straight. Slowly tuck in your chin till you feel a slight stretch at the neck, while you continue to look forward. Hold for 10 seconds and release. Repeat several times during the day.
  • Shoulder Blade Squeeze ~ Stand with your back and face straight, and your shoulders pulled back slightly. Push your shoulder blades back till as far as possible. Hold for 5 seconds and release. Do sets of 10 throughout the day.
  • Back Burns ~ Stand with your back to the wall and your chin straight. Lift your arms to shoulder height and slowly slide your arms above your head. Maintain this position for 10 seconds and release. Repeat 5 times. Do 10 sets of the same throughout the day.

Neck cracking might seem like the perfect solution to bring in some relief, but it causes more harm than it does good. With the methods and steps provided for in this article, your quest to rid yourself of the habit will be easier.