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Is Cracking Your Neck Bad?

Many people crack their own joints. But is it safe? This article we’ll review some background on cracking joints and answer the question, is cracking your neck bad?

What is Cracking Joints?

Cracking a joint is a form of physical manipulation of the joint which results in an audible popping sound. There are several theories on what causes the popping sound but scientists don’t yet agree on a single cause. Some theories are that the sound is from:

  • creation of air bubbles as the joint expands
  • cavitation¬† – formation and collapse of pockets of partial vacuum within the joint’s synovial fluid
  • quickly stretching ligaments
  • broken adhesions within the joint

Regardless of the cause, most of us are aware of what it is to crack a joint. If you’ve visited a chiropractor or physical therapist you may have even had your back or neck cracked. Many people frequently crack their own knuckles. What about other joints? Would it be ok to crack your own neck?

Is Cracking Your Own Neck OK?

There’s an old saying that goes “don’t crack your knuckles, you’ll get arthritis”. There’s no known evidence that this saying is true. But is that the worst that can happen?

What about your neck?¬†What’s the worst that can happen if you crack that? Well, the risks are much higher.

Within your neck lies important arteries which carry oxygenated blood to the brain. With a quick, sharp twist of your neck you can crack your neck but you can also tear one of these important arteries. This is called a vertebral artery dissection (VAD) and can reduce blood supply to the brain, causing a stroke. Depending on the severity of the damage and how quickly it is treated, a VAD and stroke can lead to permanent brain damage, loss of motor control and/or death.

Learn from this 28-year old man who spent months recovering from a stroke after popping his neck. Or, read about this 32-year old woman who died from complications of a stroke doctors believe to be related to physical manipulation of the neck.

Cracking your neck can be dangerous and shouldn’t be attempted.

If you’re dealing with a pinched nerve in your neck perhaps try stretching instead. If you’re looking to treat repeated migraines perhaps a visit to your doctor is needed. Whatever your choice, don’t crack your own neck.

 

References:

Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery