Is it okay to pop your neck? Ask the Internet, your family doctor, or your cousin if it’s okay to move move your head from side-to-side until you get it to crack! And you’re going to get a variety of answers on the same theme:
“It seems safe…”
“If it feels good, it’s probably okay…”
“But just be careful and don’t do it too much.”
Some compare the dangers of popping your neck to the overstated dangers of cracking your knuckles.
“They used to say cracking your knuckles caused arthritis. But that’s just a myth.”
Some might say that cracking your own neck fits in the same category: a habit that some think is kind of gross, but is still harmless.
From the perspective of this Anchorage NUCCA upper cervical chiropractor—someone who spends all day looking at necks that are broken down and causing all kinds of health problems—your neck joints are nothing like your finger joints…and they should be treated with more respect than just habitual popping and cracking.
Here are just a few reasons why:
First, your finger joints aren’t the boney protection around your spinal cord and central nervous system which coordinates all the critical functions of your body, like breathing, digesting, and keeping your heart pumping at a healthy rhythm. But your neck is that bony protection, and its alignment isn’t being improved by grabbing your chin and twisting your own neck until it pops over and over again. We have the x-rays on people who have been doing just that to their necks to prove it.
Second, your knuckles don’t have to balance the weight of your head and its precious contents, your brain, on top of a six ounce ring of bone, called the Atlas vertebra. Your neck has to do all that, and it places pressure on the small, vulnerable muscles and ligaments of the upper cervical spine when push your head to the end of your range of motion to get a joint in your lower neck to crack.
Third, while your fingers joints have a pretty good range of motion, they cannot compete with the complexity of your neck, and the amount of motion your neck can sustain while moving your head around. If you were to bend your fingers like you do your neck while popping it, those fingers most certainly would be broken. In other words, the neck is a complex collection of many, many joints, and is not just one knuckle in one finger. The joint you think you’re popping in your neck probably isn’t the one moving.
And finally, the biggest reason why your neck should be treated with greater respect than your knuckles…in our Anchorage upper cervical chiropractic practice we have seen our patients’ lose their upper cervical alignment and have their health go into a downward tailspin when they start cracking their own neck, or have another well meaning person do it for them. In fact, our patients usually move from wanting to crack their own neck all the time, to losing the desire to do so as their neck alignment becomes more stable.
It may feel good to pop your own neck. But usually that immediate feeling of relaxation disappears in a few minutes and it’s replaced by a new desire to pop your neck again. Which means whatever good you think you might be doing isn’t really lasting.
While another doctor might not see anything too harmful in this habit, an upper cervical chiropractor will tell you that it’s a bad habit that’s just not worth it.
Your neck vertebrae are not just a bunch of knuckles. They shouldn’t be popped and cracked like they are.