What Happens When You Crack Your Neck?

If you crack your neck, there are more health risks than benefits. It creates a bad habit that can lead to other problems.
What Happens When You Crack Your Neck?
Karina Valeria Atchian

Written and verified by the doctor Karina Valeria Atchian.

Last update: 25 August, 2022

It’s common to crack your neck, and lots of people do it. However, what happens when your neck cracks? Is it good to do this? We’re going to review what we know about it, and what advice specialists give about it.

Cracking your neck can create a feeling of releasing pressure or stiffness that you feel. However, what started as an attempt to reduce the tension in the area turns into a kind of tic that ends up being harmful.

What happens when you crack your neck

The neck is an area of the body that can cause problems at some point in your life. It’s estimated that 20% of adults will experience pain or tension in this area.

Some of the symptoms that usually appear, among others, are the following:

  • Pain
  • Feeling of tension
  • Limitation and pain with head movements
  • Cracking when moving
  • Numbness or weakness in upper limbs

Often, tension in your neck can lead to headaches. Sometimes, it can turn into chronic pain, both in your neck and head.

This can cause pain or tension in the cervical area, which can either be chronic or benign. The most common cause in all adults is cervical osteoarthrosis, the typical normal aging of the joints.

In addition, we should add that there are other factors that contribute to promoting muscle tension and worsening symptoms. Some of these are:

A woman with neck pain.

It’s essential to teach the patient the benefits of having good posture to create habits that protect all the joints in the body, without being limited to just the cervical region.

The goal of treating neck pain, by specialists, can be summarized in three main points:

  • Minimize muscle contracture in the area
  • Maximize the functionality of the cervical region
  • Decrease pain

You may be interested in: Keys to Good Postural Hygiene

What causes neck cracking?

On one hand, small creaks when moving your head normally may be due to osteoarthrosis. In this case, they don’t cause problems.

On the other hand, when we talk about feeling like you need to crack your neck abruptly in order to relieve tension, the most accepted theory is called the cavitation mechanism. What causes that creaking sound?

When you crack your neck or another part of the body, the capsules around the joint stretch. These capsules contain fluid, and when stretched, it puts less pressure on the joint.

As the pressure decreases, the liquids turn into gas. When this transformation occurs, joint noise or creaking happens. This mechanism also happens, in general, with maximum or sudden movements of the joints. Let’s find out if this causes any harm.

Is it good to crack your neck, or is it risky?

The first thing we will say is that it’s not a good idea to make sudden movements or make a joint make its maximum movement constantly. However, this is different if a physical therapist does it.

Doing it yourself, forcibly or incorrectly, can cause harm and can make you need to repeat the habit. Therefore, specialists don’t recommend it.

Man in sedentary job, sitting at desk and holding shoulder.

Damage from cracking your neck

Some of the main damages that can happen are:

  • Pinching a nerve
  • Tear a blood vessel and risk of stroke
  • Muscle tension or contracture
  • Promotes osteoarthrosis

What to do if you have cervical tension

As a conclusion, we’ll say that you should avoid cracking your neck yourself through a sudden or maximum movement. This act is bad for the health of your vertebrae.

Although it seems to cause relief in the area, the only thing it does is start a bad habit. Then, you’ll do it over and over, and it will produce more problems than solutions.

Given the need to release tension or if you have cervical pain, it’s best to go see a specialist.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.