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Neck Cracking

Neck Cracking

One may have heard a 'pop' sound in his/her neck when getting up from the chair, moving in particular manner, etc. He/she may have ignored it once or twice, but when it keeps happening, or one has a habit of doing it all the time, it may be a cause of concern.
Arjun Kulkarni
Last Updated: Dec 21, 2017
A lot of people experience neck cracking on waking up, or while getting up from any position which they were in for a long time. Sometimes, it is not just the neck, but a lot of the other body parts where one can feel the cracking, like the knuckles, the toes, the lower back, etc. For some, cracking the neck might just be a habit as it makes one feel good and eases his/her discomfort with respect to tension and pain. However, it is necessary to know that this relief provided is just temporary and such a habit can be harmful in the long run.

Cracking Your Neck

One should understand the cause of this cracking sound. The neck area is a joint and like any other joint, there is a lubricating fluid which ensures that there is no friction between the joints. This fluid is known as the synovial fluid. This synovial fluid is contained in a capsule between two joints. When one wishes to, or when the chiropractor goes on to crack the neck, they stretch the neck to one side. When one does that, the capsule which contains the synovial fluid gets stretched and hence its volume increases. Now we know that the pressure contained is in inverse proportion with the volume. This small science lesson tells us that if the capsule in the neck is stretched and its volume increases, the pressure inside will decrease. Now, there are a lot of gases which form the synovial fluid. When the pressure in the capsule reduces, these dissolved gases do not stay dissolved any more and form bubbles. Applying a little more pressure bursts these gas bubbles and causes the cracking sound.

The Safety in Cracking Necks

One may have probably spent a long time cracking his/her neck, but while that sound is pleasing, it is also alarming. After all, it's a 'crack' and most similar sounds are impending bad news.

Well, there are two schools of thought. There is one which believes that it is a fairly natural process which happens and that helps release the pressure and rigidity in the neck, even if one does not do it themselves. So, many people with neck pain go to chiropractors specifically to get their necks cracked and come out with a sense of relief.

However, there is another school of though which believes that there are quite a few dangers. It is said that cracking the neck too often may lead to weakening of the tendons and ligaments which hold the neck joint together. Weakened ligaments and tendons cause a condition which is known as hypermobility. A hypermobile spine comes with the impending risk of arthritis in the spine.

Furthermore, others seem to think that there is some connection between the neck cracking and strokes. It is said that cracking the neck too often may end up damaging the artery which passes through the neck to the brain. The lining of the artery bleeds and hence, there is a larger risk of that fatal blood clot which causes the stroke. While the chances of this happening is minuscule, the word 'stroke' is hard-hitting enough to deter most from neck popping ever again.

Pain will occur simultaneously in the sense that most neck pains really just need one good crack. However, scientists have their reservations about cracking necks too often. So, crack the neck only when one really needs to and do not make a habit of it.

Disclaimer: This WellnessKeen article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.