You feel stiff and sore, so roll your neck and shoulders to relieve some tension… and suddenly, * crack * – this is your throat! Maybe you think: “Do I need a chiropractor?”or just curious to know what the hell is creaking in there and what those throat sounds mean. So what’s wrong with all this? Why does your neck crack?

Why does your neck crack?

Physiotherapist Sridhar Yalamanchili, PT, MSPT, with Atlantic Spine Center in New Jersey says that neck cracking is very common-it happens to almost everyone—and it happens for various reasons, including general stiffness in this section of the spine. “The stiffness of some vertebrae, cavitation, as well as the movement of the tendons and ligaments that support the neck can cause cracks,” explains Yalamanchili. The good news? “Most often these sounds are harmless.”

But what exactly creaks, and what is the sound? “The noise is not caused by fracture or friction of bone or cartilage,” says Joshua Scott, MD, a board-certified sports physician at the Cedars-Sinai KERLAN-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles. It is indeed, most likely, bubbles that make this sound. “Most experts believe that this sound comes from pockets of nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide gases in the synovial fluid [joint], which cavitate and flow out when the joint is quickly stretched.”This also explains why you can usually only crack once—” the gases have to accumulate again in the joint fluid, which is why we usually can’t “crack” the same joint several times in a row, ” explains Dr. Scott.

Will that break your neck?

There are some caveats to safety, however. Yalamanchili says to pay attention to pain, loss of movement and tingling or numbness in the neck or arms. In all these matter, you want to consult your doctor as SOON as POSSIBLE.

If you have a pre-existing condition, it is also important to consult a specialist for any cracking of the neck. Dr. Scott advises to ” see a licensed professional who is proficient in spinal manipulation to perform such treatments “and if you suffer from severe osteoporosis, spinal cancer or spinal fracture, he says that you should” never experience spinal manipulation of any kind.”

Why is the cracking of the neck so good?

“This release of pressure in the form of bubbles in the joint fluid does well,” says Dr. Scott. “Some practitioners believe that this is due to the sudden change in pressure, while others believe that it is due to the release of endorphin due to movement near the spinal cord.”

However, watch out for” aggressive or excessive ” self-tears-Dr Scott says that while a neck tear can be satisfying if done in excess, it can lead to increased pain, nerve damage, or even artery damage that can lead to a stroke (mega yikes).

You probably won’t get hurt, he says, if you limit it to an occasional crack here and there. “A person who tears his neck or back once is unlikely to get hurt, because the person usually protects his spinal cord from moving until he does damage,” says Dr. Scott. However, there can still be too many good things. “Repetitive self-cracking can become a habit and stretch the ligaments around the spine. Over time, this can lead to excessive movement or instability of the joints. This can cause pain, and for this reason I do not recommend my patients to practice repetitive self-tears of the back or neck.”

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