When you were a kid, were you constantly cracking your knuckles, only to hear your mom correct you and say you were going to end up with swollen joints? How about today, when you’re an adult? Do you crack your joints, stretching your neck from side to side to hear and feel a satisfying pop?
It’s a habit that many of us indulge in with the hope that it will bring relief to stiffness, pressure or pain. But does it work? And more importantly, are you doing yourself more harm than good when you’re doing it?
Why Does Your Neck (And Other Joints) Crack?
When you turn or extend the joints in your body, there’s a good chance you’re going to feel or hear a pop. What’s actually happening is that you’re stretching the areas in your body that contain your joints, and that allows fluid that is found there to be release pressure. When room is made within the capsule and fluid rushes in, gas is released, and that is what makes the sound and sensation. It’s called “cavitation”. Different joints in your body have different numbers of cavities or facets, and that’s what makes the difference between a single pop that might be heard in a finger joint and the multiple sounds that can be elicited when you crack your back or your neck.
Does the Crack Mean Something Good or Something Bad?
If you’ve ever gone to a chiropractor or osteopath, then you know that part of their practice involves manipulations that evoke cracks from the back. There are some that say that the mere sound makes them feel better and that it gives a sense that something is being accomplished. There is some evidence that when the crack occurs, the body sends endorphins to the area as a pain response, and that makes you feel better. But stretching a joint that is already vulnerable may end up doing more harm than good. When you twist, turn, or pull any part of your body to a point beyond comfort, you always run the risk of straining supporting muscles, as well as doing damage to the joints themselves. You can even end up pinching the nerves in your neck. This means you can end up making the area you’re trying to bring relief to feel even worse.
The Right Thing to Do
Here’s the thing … if you’re feeling so much discomfort in your neck that you put yourself through contortions and uncomfortable stretches to find a solution, you probably need medical help to relieve what may be a serious medical situation. Leaving the situation undiagnosed not only means it could conceivably get worse, but also leads to a heightened chance that your continued efforts at self-care can lead to long term damage. Instead of tying yourself in knots, you’re much better off making an appointment with our office and arranging for a thorough physical examination that will identify the cause of the problem and provide you with long-term solutions.