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Have you ever turned your head and heard your neck crack? Sometimes it feels great and other times, maybe not so good. Either way, you might wonder about that sound. What’s with it? It turns out there’s a special word for it. 

That word is “crepitus” which applies to any snap, crackle, pop of the joints.

why does my neck crack On its own, it’s nothing to worry about. Sometimes, you might even gently turn your head side to side to try to find that relief of “ah.” Essentially, it’s trapped gas bubbles so when you release them by turning your neck, you feel relief. 

But if your neck cracking is also painful, that requires professional assistance to discover the reason why.

Let’s talk about the neck cracking.

Imagine those joints in the back of the neck. They’re called facet joints and if you feel the back of your neck, you can feel the knobby texture. Inside these joints is the synovial fluid which keeps your joints lubricated. Then, between each joint is smooth cartilage and an intervertebral disc.

In other words, your neck is designed to be flexible. That way you can turn your head from side to side. But why does it make that weird noise? 

Here’s Why You Hear Your Neck Crack

Essentially, there are three main reasons why you hear neck cracking sounds.

1- Pressure Changes – Gas bubbles within the synovial fluid in your joints make a popping noise when they explode. You might also feel a sense of relief and a greater range of motion when this happens. This is normal.

2- Ligament or tendons moving – These are attached to bones and they move around the bone in your body. Sometimes they make a sound as they move.

3- Grinding– Osteoarthritis is caused by the loss of cartilage in the neck and other parts of the body. As you age, losing this cartilage is common and can lead to the bone grinding on bone. Ouch! That is usually painful. If you’re wondering why your neck cracks and hurts, this could be related. You’ll usually be able to see this on an x-ray. 

These all apply to your knees, ankles, and other joints too by the way.

Other reasons why your neck could crack and hurt? An accident or post-surgical surgery could affect your neck. If you’re having swelling, please get yourself to a medical professional right away. Also, if your neck always cracks in the same way, that could be a sign that’s something’s amiss. 

Is it Safe to Crack Your Neck?

When everyday activities like stretching cause your neck to crack, that’s fine. But you don’t want to seek out opportunities to crack your neck on your own. The reason is that your neck houses plenty of blood vessels and nerves. Improper or forceful neck cracking can lead to pinched nerves or even punctured blood vessels both of which are problems and can lead to more pain. 

So if you’re one of those people who likes to enlist help from family or friends in cracking your neck, please don’t. You could do some damage. Instead, find a reputable chiropractor if you haven’t already. 

When Does it Make Sense to Visit a Chiropractor for Your Neck? 

Regular chiropractic care boosts your immune system and can even reduce your stress. What’s “regular?” We interpret it as at least once a month. That way, your body stays in alignment.

A chiropractor is trained in joint manipulation to help your spine (including your neck) stay flexible which is important for your overall health and the way you feel. For most people, the occasional neck crack is perfectly normal. Neck “crepitus” is nothing to worry about.

However, if you’re in pain, then you definitely want to seek medical treatment and if you feel like you’re constantly trying to crack your neck to find relief or if you have any kind of unusual swelling, then you’ll want to make an appointment right away.

If you’re someone who doesn’t like the idea of a chiropractic adjustment, Dr. Mcquaite also offers a non-cracking adjustment. It offers pain relief without the cracking sound.

Either way, you deserve to feel your best!