Many people pop or crack their neck to relieve pressure. Unfortunately, cracking your neck is not a good idea. Why is neck-cracking dangerous, and what can you do instead?
What Birdman does for his neck pain
Right at the beginning of Birdman, the movie that won the Best Picture Oscar in 2015, Michael Keaton meditates and then cracks his neck. It’s immediately evident that the character is under a lot of stress.
Many people suffer from neck pain: it’s actually the third highest cause of chronic pain, according to the American Osteopathic Association. In fact, more than a quarter of Americans suffer from this type of pain. All these people are seeking relief, and one of the ways they find it is by cracking or popping the joint. Here is basically what is happening in your body:
- Your joints exist within capsules filled with synovial fluid.
- By cracking the joint, you stretch the capsule, and a vacuum results.
- Carbon dioxide and nitrogen rush into the vacuum.
- Cracking bursts the bubbles, releasing the gas.
Caution about this at-home neck pain treatment
Unfortunately, the way this tactic stretches the ligaments can be dangerous, notes Oahu-based chiropractor Chip Abbadessa. “[L]igaments do not return to their normal length and tone once they’re stretched excessively,” he says. “This can lead to the spine moving too freely, which can lead to spinal arthritis.”
In the case of arthritis, the joints of your spine deteriorate because the stretched ligaments cause instability. Spinal cord damage may also result.
Typically people who pop their necks or backs do so because they are releasing some of the pressure that arises from spinal misalignment. Actually the body will sometimes naturally pop as you stretch. That incidental bursting of gas bubbles is natural and safe. Making your joints crack, however, can cause problems.
Cracking the neck is not a good idea, and the desire to do it suggests you are out of proper alignment, Abbadessa explains. “If you’ve lost the normal [spinal] curve…, now these joints don’t mesh properly and they will interfere with each other,” he says. “[T]hat’s why you may feel the need to release some of that pressure.”
Posture & professional neck pain care
Since cracking your neck can cause problems, what can you do instead? First, posture can be a powerful way to build stronger alignment into your body so that it functions smoothly. Create greater support and balance by strengthening your hip and stomach muscles. You also want to generally avoid crossing your legs. Basically, stabilizing the lower body tends to lead to better stability at the shoulders and neck.
Plus, it’s a good idea to contact a chiropractor, points out Yu Shing Ting of Midweek. That way you can correct the underlying problem: misalignment.
Do you want to replace cracking your neck with safe and effective neck pain treatment? At Envista Medical, we provide natural healing techniques incorporated in medical or chiropractic care to bring relief to patients in pain.