Neck cracking is a typical clicking or crackling sound which is experienced by a person when he twists or rotates his head. It is similar to the sound produced by twisting the knuckles. Many people have the habit of twisting their neck to relieve muscle tension in their neck after getting up from bed or after long period of desk work.
Although people feel relaxed with the pop sound after twisting their neck, repeated performance of this action can be harmful for the health. It may lead to pain in neck and early osteoarthritis of neck.
In many others it may not be done purposefully. It may occur on its own while bending or twisting the neck. In any case neck cracking is not good for health of cervical spine. If a person is experiencing it with certain movements of neck, he should seek treatment to get rid of it as early as possible.
What Causes Cracking Sound In The Neck?
Human neck is made up of seven cervical vertebra bones.
Usually one side of neck muscles is affected. Spasm causes shortening of muscles. They pull the cervical vertebra towards them. If a person during this period tries to move his head in the direction opposite to the spasm, cracking sound is heard.
Pressure of gases: There is a capsule surrounding each cervical vertebra. It is filled by a fluid called synovial fluid. The function of this fluid is to keep the vertebra lubricated so that the neck moves easily. Synovial fluid consists of gases such as nitrogen and carbon dioxide. With every twist and turn of neck, pressure is generated on the gas bubbles leading to a bursting sound. It is one of the leading causes of neck cracking. Normally it is not harmful to the neck vertebra.
Cracking sound in neck can also occur when the stuck ligament to the bony projection of vertebra become lose with any neck movement.
Osteoarthritis of cervical vertebra can produce cracking sound when the neck moves. It usually develops after the age of 50. The disc between the two vertebra begins to degenerate and it loses its ability to provide cushion between the vertebra. As a result the bones may rub against each other and produce pain and stiffness in neck. Cracking sound is also causes when the neck moves in different directions.
Symptoms Of Neck Cracking
Occasional neck cracking may not lead to any problem. However, if it occurs frequently, a person may experience unwanted symptoms such as:
- Neck pain: Repeated cracking sound in neck can affect movement of neck. The cartilage supporting the vertebra may get damaged causing arthritis of the joint. The space between the two vertebra decreases and the nerves passing between them may get compressed leading to pain in neck.
- Patient may also suffer from headache and pain radiating to shoulder.
- The muscles of neck become sore and tender to touch.
- If the condition is severe, patient may complain of tingling numbness in arm and fingers.
- Some researchers have also suggested that one of the reasons for stroke in young people is related to neck cracking. Repeated cracking in neck can cause damage to the blood vessels in cervical artery. Blood flows to the brain through this artery. Damage can lead to hemorrhage or clot formation hampering the blood flow to brain. Reduced blood flow will cause reduced supply of oxygen and thus triggering stroke.
Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Neck Cracking
Since repeated neck cracking can lead to various problems like stiffness and neck pain, here is the treatment regimen to get rid of it and prevent further damage to the vertebra.
- Exercise: Neck cracking is mainly associated with neck muscle spasm. They occur when the neck is held tightly in one position for a long period of time. Certain exercise that can be easily done at home and even in the office will help to relieve cracking sound. This exercise is simple. Bend your head forward so that the chin touches the chest. This causes stretching of back muscles in the neck. It helps to strengthen the muscles of neck. Also bend your head sideways to release strain on the muscles. Practice it two to three times in a day.
- Regular massage of neck muscles will improve circulation and prevent spasm of neck muscles. Once spasm of neck muscles is cured, person will find improvement in neck cracking.
- Warm fomentation with a heat bag or hot water bottle will alleviate pain and stiffness caused due to neck muscle spasm. In turn patient may find relief from cracking sound in neck.
- In some cases physical therapy and neck collar may be required if cervical spondylosis is severe.