Why does my neck crack?

“Why do I feel a cracking in my neck?” “When I turn my head I hear snap, crackle pop why?” I hear these questions all the time in my clinic and it’s a valid question to have considering a lot of people experience this at some point. Cracking and popping in joints throughout the body are normal and we have a lot of joints in our neck. However, if cracking is accompanied by pain or some sort of swelling then it may be time to get it looked at by a health care professional.

Have you ever heard of crepitus? Crepitus refers to any type of noise or sensation such as a cracking, snapping, cracking, popping or grinding sound heard when a joint is moved. This symptom is common in your knees and usually does not accompany pain. The underlying cause of crepitus in the neck is not fully understood. Here are a few reasons why we tend to here those cracking sounds in our joints.

Synovial joint fluid pressure changes:

There are various studies that have been done to find out what actually causes the sound of cracking in our joints. Some say that it is the bursting of a gas bubble the joints synovial fluid. Others say it is the sound of the bubble being formed. Either way the cause and sound can come from either or.

Ligament or tendon moving around a bone:

Another reason for the cracking to happen is the possibility of a ligament or a tendon rolling over top of a bone. This can happen around all types of joints in the body not just the neck.

Bone on bone grinding:

Although this is the most uncommon reason, bone on bone grinding can cause a sound to be produced in your neck or joints. Once the articular cartilage wears away there is nothing left to prevent the bones from rubbing together. This in turn, can cause the sound of cracking or popping at times. This condition is called osteoarthritis. This condition usually happens gradually, but can accelerate if you experience an injury or surgery to the area. This type of cracking is usually accompanied by pain, limitation of movement and the cracking will happen with every movement.

Although there are many reasons people experience cracking, I always suggest getting yourself evaluated by a physical therapist or another health care professional to see what can be done for prevention of injury or symptoms.

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