Neck stiffness isn’t unusual, and it can occur from merely spending too long bent over your desk, sleeping awkwardly or lifting something that is too heavy. Many crave the feeling of relief that comes from a quick crack of the neck (although some research has shown that this may be a psychological placebo effect).
BUT IS CRACKING YOUR NECK ANY GOOD FOR YOU?
The day-to-day neck cracking you experience is probably safe. The risk comes when you either do it too often, or force it by pulling or twisting your head with your hands. Worse yet when you have someone who isn’t a health professional do it for you. The more you force any joint beyond its natural range of motion, the more you stretch the ligaments. Since ligaments that are stretched too much remain stretched, you could be setting yourself up for joint instability and misalignments. The muscles around the neck become more and more tight and guarded, therefore leading to a tighter neck.
When the osteopath adjusts the neck they can pin point the exact joint that needs to release. When you do it yourself, most likely you are over releasing the same joint over and over again due to you can’t modify and release the precise joint like a health professional can.Refer to image below.
SO, WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU CRACK YOUR NECK?
There are a few explanations for why your neck makes a popping sound. The first is called cavitation. Our joints contain gases (nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and oxygen) and fluid to cushion and lubricate the joints. The sound is produced by pressure on the fluid that creates gas bubbles that pop. Cavitation can increase flexibility and ease discomfort, and chiropractors are trained in how to do this most effectively to relieve pain.
Another reason for the cracking noise can be the result of ligaments and tendons moving over the joints or one another. Ligaments connect bone to bone, and tendons connect muscle to bone. Sometimes, if the ligaments, muscles or tendons supporting your neck are too tight or too loose, they will make this cracking noise when you force the tendons, muscles or ligaments to rub against your bones.
WHEN IS NECK CRACKING BAD FOR YOU?
Cracking or popping your neck should never hurt, and you should never have to force it. If either of these things is true, then neck cracking is likely doing you harm. Your neck should not be extremely stiff or at all swollen, and if this is the case, you almost certainly have a neck injury that requires medical attention.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU NEED TO SEE A OSTEOPATH?
If you are continuously experiencing a stiff neck or neck pain, it’s essential to see an osteopath who can ensure you don’t have an underlying problem that needs to be corrected. If you need an expert to help with your current or chronic neck stiffness or pain contact us or book online here