It’s hard to believe something that feels so good could be oh-so-bad for you.
I am addicted to cracking my neck. Literally.
I’ve actually cracked my neck twice since starting this article. If I’ve got a joint, you can be sure I’ve cracked it some time in the past hour. From my fingers to my toes, I love a good popping sesh, and, actually, the more I think about it, the stronger the urge becomes. It’s the ultimate stress cure – an audible release of tension that gives instant relief, but, you may be surprised to learn just how risky it is.
Imagine my horror when (mid-crack) I discovered an innocent neck crack can kill you. No, like, literally.
Recently, a 28-year-old man triggered a stroke by popping a joint in his neck, rupturing an artery and causing a potentially life-threatening medical situation. This hit a little close to home for me. I crack my neck dozens of times a day, and so do most of my family. My dad has even cracked his neck and gotten it stuck, landing him in an emergency appointment with his chiropractor.
Horrified, but still can’t break the habit? Same here.
In an attempt to break the addiction, I’ve sought out some answers to find out why we JUST. CAN’T STOP. CRACKING…
If it’s so bad, why does it feel so good?
Let’s go back to basics and break this down.
The joints in your body (including your neck) are made up of little capsules that contain fluid. By stretching out these capsules, you decrease the pressure on the joint itself. As the pressure decreases, the fluid in the capsules actually turns into a gas. So, when you crack your neck, you are letting the fluid stretch through the capsules, releasing pressure on the joint itself and the ‘pop’ you hear is actually the sound of fluid changing into gas as it’s being released. This release of gas is also what makes it feel like the tension has been relieved from your joints. When the gas is released. it sends endorphins to the joints, and, voila! Instant gratification and a neck that feels as good as new.
Well, temporarily, at least…
Is the risk worth the reward?
An week ago, I would have laughed if you’d told me cracking my neck was doing me more harm than good, but the science doesn’t lie.
The more you stretch your joints (particularly in your neck), the more likely you are to develop instability in your ligaments. This leads to increased pressure and the feeling that you need to keep cracking. And while there’s no disputing the fact it feels good in the moment, over-stretching the ligaments in your neck over the long-term can lead to osteoporosis, a serious and irreversible bone condition.
If getting stuck in a cycle of perpetual cracking doesn’t frighten you, the risk of stroke might. According to Health Guidance, “Individuals who have a habit of neck cracking are more prone towards developing stroke. Also, there have been cases of blood clotting due to neck cracking.”
These frightening consequences are up there with nerve pinching, cartilage tearing, and increased stiffness. So you might want to rethink the positives of the ‘pop’ you’ve been craving.
How do I cut the ‘crack’?
There are things you can do to minimize the urge. The first step is to consciously decide to cut the habit (which believe me, is harder than it sounds). When you first get the urge to crack your neck, try out some simple (and SAFE) stretches to relieve tension before going straight for the ‘pop’.
Start by lowering your chin to your chest to release tension in the upper back and shoulders. Gently rolling your neck in circles and looking side to side will help to relieve muscle pressure without cracking the joint.
If you continue to feel pain and discomfort, it is important to seek out the advice of a medical professional. In some instances, it could be an indicator of an underlying problem or chiropractic treatment could be necessary.
Images via tumblr.com and giphy.com.
Comment: Have you ever injured yourself from cracking or popping a joint?