Here's What You Need to Know…
We all have that one friend who loves to crack their neck. You might even be that person. Cracking your neck feels like a relief, right?
Whether it’s due to tension, boredom, or habit. It feels good. We know that.
But do you ever wonder if this habit is bad for you?
In this blog post, we set the record straight and explore the science behind neck cracking and whether it's a harmful habit that does long-term damage. Like, can it give you arthritis? Or is it harmless?
Let's start by figuring out what causes the cracking sound when you do crack.
When we talk about the neck, we're talking about the area of your body that joins your head to your shoulders and chest.
The neck is made up of seven spinal bones called vertebrae that stack one on top of the other. Numerous arteries, veins, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and connective tissue run through it and combine to form what we commonly call "the neck ."
It's a complex structure, that's for sure. But it also houses the all-important spinal cord that connects your brain to the rest of your body. So, it's not something you want to mess around with.
When you crack your neck, you release gas within your joints. This gas is nitrogen in the fluid that lubricates your joints.
As a result, you create a vacuum within the joint when you twist or turn your neck. When you move your neck like that, the vacuum pulls the nitrogen out of the fluid, and you hear that familiar popping sound.
So, is it harmless?
While there isn't any concrete evidence that cracking your neck is bad for you, there are some potential risks you should be aware of.
Cracking your neck too aggressively or too frequently can lead to soreness and stiffness.
If you're cracking your neck to relieve tension or pain, it's better to focus on stretching and strengthening exercises or visit a physical therapist.
Another thing to consider is the potential damage you could be doing to your joints. If you're repeatedly cracking your neck in the same spot, you could wear down the cartilage within your joint.
This wear and tear can eventually lead to joint pain and even osteoarthritis further down the line. So we don't recommend it.
N.B., you should talk to your healthcare provider immediately if you notice any pain or swelling after cracking your neck.
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Are You Cracking Your Neck To Relieve Neck Pain?
While cracking your neck might feel good in the moment, it's important to remember that it's not a long-term solution for pain or tension.
Instead, it could be masking an underlying issue that you need to address. Consider talking to a physical therapist if you're experiencing chronic neck pain or stiffness.
We can help you assess your discomfort's root cause and develop a targeted treatment plan to fix the issue.
Cracking your neck isn't necessarily bad for you, but it's also not a habit you should rely on for pain relief.
Instead, focus on stretching, strengthening, and addressing any underlying issues. At RPM Physical Therapy, we specialize in helping patients find long-term solutions for chronic neck pain and tension.
What Causes Neck Pain?
There is no one single cause of neck pain. You might be in pain or can't move your neck properly for multiple reasons, and the cause and “cure” tend to be different for everyone. However, some of the most common underlying causes of neck pain include the following:
- Cervical stenosis
- Herniated discs
- Bone spurs
- Chronic stress, anxiety, and/or depression
- Poor posture
- Muscle weakness/inflammation
How Physical Therapy Fixes Neck Pain
If you have neck pain – that makes you want to crack it all the time, you will benefit from physical therapy in several ways.
First, we can help you mobilize your neck and move better. But most importantly, with our guidance and support, we can help reduce the irritation and minimize pain.
Neck pain is a nagging and persistent problem that affects many people, young and old. It can significantly impact your daily life, whether the cause is poor posture, a previous injury, or stress.
Many of the patients we see who struggle with neck discomfort do so due to age or lifestyle choices - such as spending too long hunched over a smartphone or computer screen.
Unfortunately, these habits lead to less and less movement over time because they keep your neck in a fixed position for, sometimes, hours on end. The body gets stuck in this chronic pattern of muscle tension.
But if you regularly suffer from neck pain, tightness, and soreness that makes you feel like you need to crack your neck continually, the good news is that a good physical therapist (like one of the team at RPM Physical Therapy) can help you fix the underlying issue and alleviate the pain and discomfort.
Using a personalized treatment plan, we identify the source of your pain and use various tried and tested techniques to relieve it and prevent it from reoccurring in the future.
From exercises to massage therapy and spinal manipulation, our expertise and hands-on treatment methods help you eliminate neck pain (and the desire to crack your neck continually) for good.
It might seem like a minor inconvenience, but the truth is that if you ignore neck pain, it can lead to many other issues that can impact your daily life – from reduced range of motion and ability to turn your neck easily, irritability, migraines, and tension headaches, and even reduced concentration and productivity at work.
These are just a few of the possible outcomes if you ignore neck pain. That’s why we always say that seeking treatment early on, at the first sign of discomfort, is the best way to make sure that you don’t suffer long-term problems like arthritis or disc degeneration in the future.
How Does Physical Therapy Work?
Physical therapy is a type of treatment that uses exercise and movement to enhance physical function.
We use it to help you recover from injuries or improve your quality of life through better movement, mobility, and less pain by providing and guiding you through a personalized plan that incorporates strength training and stretching to improve your overall functionality and target injuries or other areas of concern.
During the sessions, we tailor our techniques to your unique needs. But one of the central methods of physical therapy is strengthening exercises, which help you build up weak muscles and improve your overall body function.
Stretching is another important technique that we use to promote flexibility and increased range of motion in muscles and joints. It is an effective treatment with numerous benefits, including decreasing pain levels and reducing stiffness and lack of mobility.
But physical therapy isn’t just stretching and strengthening exercises. When we treat neck pain and discomfort, we use several additional techniques that help to relieve your symptoms and promote healing.
One common approach is manual manipulation, which involves using our hands to realign your joints and ease muscle tension to allow greater flexibility and range of motion. Sometimes, we may also use ultrasound technology or electrical stimulation to stimulate healing further and reduce pain.
Whether used alone or combined with other therapies, these treatments offer a targeted and practical approach to addressing neck pain.
Unlike generic exercise routines, our customized physical therapy programs target your individual strengths, weaknesses, and goals.
By working with us, you can expect to receive a program that helps you achieve your goals with supervised workouts and manual therapy delivered in the clinic, along with vitally important exercises for you to do at home that complement the work we do together.
So, whether you're recovering from a sports injury, trying to prevent one or enhance your athletic performance, or just want to run 5K or play with the grandkids again, we provide the support and guidance you need to succeed.
So, if you're suffering from neck pain or mobility limitations right now, consider exploring the benefits of physical therapy to help you regain control over your body and live the life you deserve.
With careful assessment, targeted exercises, and manual therapy combined with our ongoing support and "cheerleading," RPM Physical Therapy can help you achieve your goals and improve your well-being.
Would you like our help with neck pain?
Don’t let it control your life. Come and see us instead. Contact us today to book a free consultation to talk about our physical therapy services and how we can help you fix what’s going on for you.
- Is Cracking Your Neck Bad? - April 28, 2023
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