Neck Popping and Cracking: Why Is This Harmful?

We often witness one typical mannerism of most people which is neck cracking and popping. Like in action movies, where we commonly see tough men crack their necks and we will eventually hear neck popping sounds as the men keeps on twisting their necks. Although this scene in a movie makes it really alluring, in real life, popping neck can actually bring you harm.

What is Neck Popping?

The skull protects the brain, while the neck protects the spinal cord. There are bones at the front of neck and the cartilage rings that supports trachea and larynx. These bones and muscles are making head movement an easy activity. When there’s repeated rotating movement of the head, or when large muscle that extends down the neck to collar bone is affected, neck popping is felt. 

Cracking and Popping in Neck

“I always experience popping in my neck and constantly hear a loud neck popping sound every time I turn my head. It doesn’t hurt though, but why is that happening?”

Neck popping and grinding happens when there’s changes in the cartilage that lines the facet joints. Typically, when the cartilage becomes soft, it’s also becoming irregular; so when there’s head movement, instead of taking the smooth path, the joints now travel on an irregular path. For this reason, a clear sound whenever the head is turned or tilted (popping noise in neck) can be heard.

It could also be that the muscles in the neck are a little tight. Because tight muscles can cause the vertebrae to rub against each other when there’s certain head and neck movement, neck popping when turning head occurs. And whenever popping in neck happen, gas or fluids within the joints around the neck area are released. It is therefore the instant production of temporary vacuum that are filled with fluid or gas is what causes the popping sound in neck.

There are some people whose neck keeps popping on its own, and/or been hearing loud popping sounds in neck but are not experiencing pain. But even though there’s no pain involved, still, constantly hearing neck popping noise can be disturbing.

“Popping my neck usually gives me relief especially when I’m under a lot of stress. But I guess the question now is: Is popping your neck bad for you even though it doesn’t hurt?”

For most people, neck cracking/popping is merely a habit. The feeling of relief and the sound it makes is just satisfying. But one must realize that this isn’t a good habit; and because it does more harm than good, it should actually be stopped immediately. The following are neck popping/cracking harmful effects:

  • Every popping in the neck puts lots of stress into the joint causing the ligaments around the joints to stretch, thus making it more unstable which can further lead to instability.
  • Regularly popping your neck makes cervical arteries that pass through the back of your neck and head tear, placing you at higher risk of stroke.
  • Every cracking and popping in neck causes the cartilage to wear down in the vertebrae leading to less mobility as time goes by and/or neck arthritis in the future.

Though there are various opinions on the effects of neck cracking, no one really support it all the way – whether healthcare professionals or chiropractors. Because of its serious side effects, it is best to stop cracking neck on your own.

Neck Popping and Pain

Many individuals ask this: can popping your neck hurt you? For some, it’s possible that they don’t feel any neck pain despite popping it regularly. However, that doesn’t mean that you’ll never get hurt. Because constant popping and cracking in neck is usually associated with pain, it becomes a major issue in the long run.

Popping neck with pain could be a sign that there have been misalignments of the vertebral structure, or damage into the joints, ligaments, or cartilage may be present. There could also be other serious conditions involving the spine and the musculoskeletal system which is causing neck pain/popping. For these reasons, immediate medical help is necessary in case sharp neck pain after a loud popping sound happened.

Neck popping and cracking might just only be a vice for some. But for people who are experiencing pain, or for people who are worried with the sounds it make, neck popping and its side effects is serious. So, is popping your neck bad? Yes it is and it’s a habit that should be stopped right away.