Q: I constantly see my teenage grandson “crack his own neck” and it drives me crazy. I told him he should see a chiropractor but he said he can do it himself. What is your opinion? –Tasha, Bonita Springs
A: We all experience our joints cracking sometimes. If we're sitting too long and stand up and stretch, it's not unusual for built-up pressure in the spine to release a bit, causing that familiar popping. “Unforced” cracking that occurs from natural and gentle movements is not harmful. So if your neck is a bit stiff, you gently tilt your head from side to side, and your neck cracks? You can rest easy knowing that you have not done any damage.
Unfortunately, we have all seen them do it...they place one hand on the chin and one hand on the back of the head and jerk their neck around until it make s loud noises. Beware, though, forcing motion into your neck just to get a “cracking noise” can throw you right into the danger zone. The reason? When you use your chin as a lever to manipulate your neck into making a popping noise, it is forcing motion into a spinal segment that may not need it. It is not specific to any one joint. This causes a random noise to be made in a random joint depending on the force used and where the hands were placed when the neck was jerked around. Overtime that repetitive motion can stretch the ligaments that hold the bones tightly together in the neck, causing it to become hyper-mobile (moves too much). The lax ligaments no longer hold the structure tight like the body intended and it puts additional stress on the muscles, causing them to get sore, fatigued, and weakened. As a result, the joint may feel good for a short time after it is “cracked” but people that crack their own necks have to do it more and more frequently to achieve that same feeling of relief. Of course, this will re-stretch the already loose ligaments, and the vicious cycle starts all over again.
How is “cracking your own neck” different from a chiropractic adjustment? A chiropractic adjustment involves identifying the fixated joint and delivering a force along a specific line of drive to restore motion to that spinal segment. Because the adjustment is specific to the problematic joint, there is less chance of chronic hyper-mobility. Loss of motion is restored, inflammation decreases, allowing healing of affected joint.
Dr. Misty Green is a local Chiropractor serving the Cape Coral/North Fort Myers, Florida area for over 20 years. She can be reached at (239) 772-5777 to schedule an appointment. Check out our website at AskDrMisty.com for short and sweet video health tips.
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