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Is Cracking Your Neck Safe?

By Randi Morse 

I recently watched one of my son's friends push his jaw sharply to one side. When he did this, I heard a "crack" sound. He then pushed his neck to the other side; once again there was a loud "crack." Over the course of two hours I watched him repeat this action four times. He assured me that it didn't hurt, and that cracking his neck alleviated some stiffness. But is cracking your neck a safe thing to do? 

The Cracking Sound 

What, exactly, was the cracking sound that I heard when he twisted his neck? Every joint has capsules around it. These capsules have fluid in them, and it is the stretching of that capsule that helps to alleviate some pressure on the joint. The fluid eventually decreases, and then turns into gas. This is a normal process that is completely harmless to the human body. When that fluid becomes a gas, it is possible that cracking your knuckles, or your neck, will cause a loud popping noise. The neck has several joints in it; these are called facet joints and they're located on both sides of your neck. While the cracking does have a great sound, it also has the benefit of relieving some pressure from the neck. 

Is It Harmful? 

We all remember being told in school that we shouldn't crack our knuckles. I know my teacher told me that if I cracked my knuckles, I would be much more likely to get arthritis at an early age. In science, we now know that this is false. Cracking your knuckles is not likely to cause arthritis. While cracking the neck can feel amazing, if it is done incorrectly it can be harmful. Crack your neck too forcefully and you may pinch the nerves. Pinched nerves are excruciatingly painful and can make it difficult to move your neck in any direction. So while it may occasionally be OK to "crack" your neck, as long as you use the proper technique, doing it incorrectly or cracking your neck too often can cause more harm than good; it's still best to leave it in the hands of a professional. 

What to Do 

If you're feeling some discomfort, stiffness, or any other type of pain in your neck, seek the help of a professional rather than trying to crack your neck on your own. An experienced chiropractor knows exactly how to "crack" your neck in a way that is safe by removing the joint restrictions within it in a way that's designed to help alleviate the pain in your neck. 

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Duluth, Ga.

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