Don’t Crack Your Neck

Many of my students have a habit of cracking their neck. I know this brings momentary release but it damages your neck in the long run. It’s best not to crack your joints.

Report: If you often crack or pop your neck yourself, it probably means that the joints are hypermobile. The ligaments are a bit lax so the joints move a little more than they should. In response, the muscles tighten up to stabilize the joints. This makes your neck feel tight and makes you want to crack it. When you do that, the muscles are momentarily stretched, they relax somewhat, and you feel better for a while. But when you crack your neck you also stretch the loose ligaments further which makes the muscles tighten up again. It’s a vicious cycle.

…1. Joints move. Okay, you knew that already. The point is that your spine is made up of many vertebrae, each of which articulates (forms joints with) the vertebra above and the vertebra below. The joints in the spine do not have as great a range of motion as do the larger and more mobile joints of the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees, but because there are 24 moveable segments in the spine, the combined motion of these joints allows us to bend forward and touch our toes (some of us, anyway), look over our shoulders to back the car out of the driveway, and perform nearly all of our daily activities. Without spinal motion people would look like the Tin Man before he found his oil can. Joints move.

2. Normal joints have normal motion. This may sound like another no-brainer, but neck-crackers have a problem with normal joint motion. There are four phases of motion: active, passive, paraphysiologic – where the “pop” occurs during manipulation – and sprain – where ligaments are injured.

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