Why Cracking Your Own Neck May Be Addictive
If you suffer from neck stiffness or pain, you may find passing relief from cracking your own neck. Some patients achieve a crack by using their hands to forcibly turn their heads or by simply clenching their neck muscles and rotating their heads. Either way, this is a dangerous practice that can be habit-forming.
Crepitus is the medical term for the sound produced by cracking joints. This pop or crackle results from bubbles of nitrogen and other gases releasing when joints are manipulated. Contrary to folklore, popping your neck, knuckles, or other joints will not cause those joints to enlarge permanently. However, you can do other damage.
Sometimes joints crack on their own, such as when you arise first thing in the morning. But when you forcibly crack your neck or other joints, you are pushing those joints past their normal range of motion. This action can injure ligaments, cartilage, muscle, tendons, and other connective tissue associated with those joints. These injuries can lead to chronic inflammation and pain.
Why It Feels Good
Cracking the joints of your neck causes certain areas of your brain to release endorphins. A contraction of the words endogenous and morphine, endorphins are natural opioids produced by your body. Endorphins can temporarily relieve pain and give you a slight feeling of euphoria.
For example, a “runner’s high” is caused by the actions of endorphins. Sustained, strenuous exercise as well as some stressful situations can release endorphins. Since cracking your neck also stimulates endorphin release, this habit can make your stiff or sore neck feel better momentarily, but you must continuously crack it to keep producing that feeling. This practice magnifies the opportunity for injury.
See Your Chiropractor
Of course, this feeling does not last, and you will quickly go back to experiencing neck problems. The smart course of action is to visit your chiropractor instead of manipulating your own neck. Chiropractors have the education and experience to know the proper way to adjust your neck, back, and other areas without causing harm.
When you undergo a chiropractic adjustment, you may hear popping or cracking sounds. This is normal and is no cause for concern. Your chiropractor is not adjusting your body randomly. Instead, they are bringing your spine back into the correct alignment to reduce your pain and restore proper function.
Remember, cracking your own neck is always risky. You can cause permanent and even life-threatening damage. Leave spinal manipulation to the experts, and schedule an appointment with your chiropractor.