Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Is it bad to crack your neck?"
I do this thing where I crack my neck by leaning it over to both sides quickly. Is this bad for my neck? Could I do damage to my bones or muscles by cracking it?
When you crack your neck, the noise primarily results from cavitation, which is a phenomenon in which air bubbles form within the joint fluid due to the sudden movement. There is nothing particularly dangerous about the popping noise these bubbles make when they burst, and "cracking" joints such as your knuckles or your neck has never been shown to be harmful, for example by predisposing you to premature arthritis. In some cases, however, the cracking noise is not from cavitation but is rather from the snapping motion of tight ligaments over bony prominences. Therefore, if the popping noise is accompanied by discomfort or by a 'catching' sensation then this might be evidence that you have an area of stiffness in some of the muscles and connective tissue on the sides of your neck. In this case I would avoid cracking your neck, as the stiffness itself needs to be treated, either through taking anti inflammatory medications and stretching exercises or, perhaps, by visiting a physical therapist. If you have any pain or limited mobility in your neck, talk to your primary care doctor who will be able to make recommendations regarding appropriate treatment regimens, including potential referral to physical therapy. Good luck!
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