You’ve all seen this, and maybe you’ve all done this from time to time: twisting your own neck in order to get a few pops.

I often see young people yank their heads one way and the the other, each providing a barrage of cracking sounds.  While this will offset a feeling of stiffness, pain or other discomfort, the desire to do it means that there is something wrong.

People that repeatedly self-crack their necks usually have neck pain or headaches.  The “cracking” is stimulating.  It dulls the feeling of pain or stiffness, but never gets at the problem.  The audible cracking sound, called cavitation, occurs when the joint unsticks itself.  Joints have wet surfaces at their connections, so it’s like a suction cup unsticking from a wet surface.  Cavitation is stimulating, just like rubbing your head after banging it against a cabinet is stimulating.  It dulls the pain.

The problem with self-cracking is that it only releases built up pressure in the joints due to the improper positioning and movement of some segments of the cervical spine. Endorphins are then released which gives a brief sense of relief. Since no repositioning of the vertebra took place, the problem returns and worsens with time.

The best way to go about fixing this problem is to have a thorough hands-on physical examination by a chiropractor. Assessing the underlying cause of your desire to “crack” your neck will give you lasting relief instead of a temporary band-aid approach. X-rays may be utilized for evaluation of your presenting condition. A recommended treatment plan of Spinal manipulation in combination with various soft tissue massage treatments, exercises and ergonomic changes is the best correction and lasting approach.

Research has proven that spinal joint manipulation, when performed by those with the most appropriate and extensive training (e.g. doctors of chiropractic), is quite safe – safer than drugs routinely taken for pain.  So instead of sloshing your own neck around, get your stuck joints worked out by an expert and learn the exercised and good ergonomics to help keep your neck healthy and feeling good.

Dr. Michele Foxworthy, Chiropractor

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