Lots of people “crack” or “pop” their own necks; sometimes for relief, sometimes for dramatic effect, sometime just because they can, often without trying to. But what is the difference between “cracking” it yourself and a Chiropractor doing it?
The need to “crack” one’s own neck is potentially a sign of an underlying problem. Often the need to do it is down to poor posture putting excess stress on the joints in the cervical (neck) spine. Due to the stresses on the spine, the joints become restricted and uncomfortable. If an on-going problem, it may get to the stage of a trapped nerve! When you “crack” your own neck (self adjust) you are mostly ‘cracking’ either the joint above or below the restricted one that needs to move properly. Chiropractors train over 4-5 years to adjust the right joint in the right way (see picture below). This relieves the restricted joint and frees up any trapped nerves.
Is there anything wrong with “cracking” my own neck?
The danger of doing it yourself is you’re “cracking” the wrong joints. When you self adjust it may make the same ‘popping’ noise (air being released from the joint) as a Chiropractic adjustment; it might provide some relief, due to the natural release of a pain-relieving chemical called endorphins. But it can cause damage.
When a joint is restricted, the joints above and below work harder to compensate for the lack of movement in the stiff joint. So these joints are moving too much already and when you self adjust you are forcing them to move even further (see picture). This can, over time, cause stretching of the ligaments that support the spine and lead to instability and future problems.
So what should I do if I always “crack” my own neck?
From what we’ve learnt so far, you potentially have an underlying problem and are causing damage to the ligaments of your spine. First look at your posture to prevent unnecessary stress on your neck and shoulders. Second, have a full examination with a Chiropractor to assess the movement and function of the individual joints of the spine. A Chiropractor will then be able to recommend stretches, postural advice, and, if necessary, a course of Chiropractic adjustments to restore the correct movement to the spine.
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