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Confessions from a Neck Cracker

By Debra Rodzinak

Some people like to crack their knuckles or have a friend squeeze them to crack their back.  I am different. I like to twist my head and crack my neck. I even sometimes take my palm, place it against my chin and turn my head until a very loud, audible crack, crack, crack sound is heard, and I admit that I am slightly addicted to this sound and feeling. 

In the back of my mind (no pun intended), I often wonder if I am actually hurting my spine and eventually the base of my brain. Is this something I should be concerned about? What are the signs of unhealthy neck cracking?

Harmless Joint Cracking

Crepitus is the scientific term for joint cracking. According to the experts, a gas bubble is either formed or burst from the synovial fluid that encases every joint when the cracking sound is heard. This sound and creation or deletion of the air bubble is considered harmless. Studies have shown that there is no real evidence that any damage is done to the joint.

A good test to see if the cracking sound was actually crepitus is to try and make the sound again. If the sound cannot be made again then it was probably crepitus. After about 20 minutes the gas bubble will reform.

Concerns for Neck Cracking

Instead of crepitus, a grinding in the neck can be the result of damage or dysfunction to a cervical joint. An acute injury or years of wear and tear can be a cause for concern.

Look for these warning signs that signal neck cracking is more than just a gas bubble:

  • Continuous cracking that occurs every time a particular movement is repeated
  • Cracking that is accompanied by swelling or pain
  • Following an accident or surgery of the cervical spine

If you have neck cracking and are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your regular physician immediately.  A proper diagnosis will need to be made before additional injury occurs. 

If you and your physician decide that your neck cracking is perfectly harmless, come by The Joint and talk with one of our expert doctors who can help you find relief in your neck and entire spine. If your neck irritation is due to poor posture or a misaligned spine, The Joint will work with you to create a treatment plan that works for you. The Joint is reinventing the chiropractic customer experience. It’s on your terms, not ours.

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