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Neck Cracking? 5 Signs it May be a Problem

By Krista Elliott

As I sit and write this, the Princess Leia bobblehead on my desk nods her head approvingly with every keystroke. She's a very encouraging muse, and I have to admire the smooth and silent flexibility of her neck as it supports her improbably large head. 

Our own necks aren't always so smooth and silent. Instead, they sometimes emit an alarming series of cricks, cracks, snaps, and outright crunches. Most times, this is inadvertent and harmless. If your neck cracks occasionally and isn't accompanied by any pain, odds are it's simply the popping of nitrogen bubbles. These bubbles form occasionally and harmlessly in the synovial fluid in your joints, and can pop even when a joint stays within its normal range of motion.

But when is neck cracking the sign of something more worrisome? 

When it's Accompanied by Pain: If your neck cracking is accompanied by pain, it could be the sign of arthritis or degenerative disc disease. If you're experiencing pain, swelling, or a grinding sensation in your neck, you should definitely seek medical attention.

When it Makes you Feel Strange: If your neck cracks and you feel warmth down that side of your neck, or a bit of dizziness or nausea, your cracking may have interfered with the function of one or more nerves. 

When it's Consistent: The odd cracking sound is fine. But does your neck crack every single time you move it a certain way, even if it's within seconds? At that point, it's not bubbles, as they haven't had time to re-form. If your neck cracks almost every time you move it, it could be the sign of a subluxation or restricted joint. 

When it's Post-Surgery or Post-Accident: If you've recently had neck surgery or been in an accident (even just a minor fender-bender), any changes in your joint health need to be assessed by a doctor to see if there are major issues or if it is caused by healing muscles pulling on the spine and creating subluxations. 

When it's on Purpose: Moving your neck within its normal range of motion to loosen up the muscles is fine. If that's accompanied by the odd cracking sound, that's fine too. What's not fine is physically twisting or pushing on your own head in order to make your neck crack (or worse, having someone do it for you). Doing this can cause serious damage to your spine and to the ligaments in your neck. 

If your doctor has ruled out any serious injuries or conditions, head on over to The Joint Chiropractic! With gentle and precise adjustments, our chiropractors can help resolve your neck pain and help you feel great! And with over 370 nationwide locations and no appointment required, it's never been easier to make time for a healthier you. 

So get cracking — in a good way — and visit The Joint today! 

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

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