Health / Expert Advice

3 Reasons Why Cracking Your Neck Is a Terrible Habit

Learn why cracking your neck can have serious ramifications to our overall health.

Some of us crave that feeling that we get when we press our head down from side to side. We experience that brief euphoria of a cracked neck. Only to realize that we need to do it again fifteen minutes later. Believe it or not, there’s a reason for that.

Cracking your neck releases endorphins to the joints. This causes a relief of any pain and/or a surge of instant gratification. This addictive behavior can have a plethora of negative effects, all of which outweigh the seconds of bliss.

It may seem hard to believe, but cracking your neck can lead to prolonged pain, loss of motion, and can sometimes be life-threatening. More research is needed on the topic, however several studies from universities and medical organizations have proven that something as simple as cracking your neck can cause very serious health implications.

Read on to find out reasons why you should never crack your neck and alternative methods to relieve neck pain.

It can lead to a stroke.

Inside our necks are an abundance of blood vessels. In some cases, when we crack our necks with enough force or even too often, we can end up puncturing our blood vessels. This can lead to blood clotting. According to Health Guidance, “Individuals who have a habit of neck cracking are more prone towards developing a stroke. Blood clotting can have hazardous consequences on your health. It can deprive the oxygen supply to the brain.” What’s even scarier, is that studies have shown that those who crack their necks under the age of sixty are actually more at risk. More research is need on the issue. While the risk itself is extremely small, there’s no doubt that it exists. Consider this the next time you feel the urge to crack your neck.

Related: Check out Aaptiv’s stretching classes here to relieve your neck pain.

It can cause perpetual instability.

Every time we crack our necks, we’re stretching the ligaments around our joints. Sometimes this can result in our ligaments being permanently stretched and damaged. This puts us at a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis (OA). According to the Arthritis Foundation, “OA is also known as degenerative joint disease and affects around 27 million Americans. This is a condition where the cartilage around [the] joints and bones wears away.” If continued and worsened, OA can lead to bone on bone rubbing, which causes joint damage and pain. In addition to OA, cartilage wear reduces the amount of mobility that we have in our necks. This can cause simple movements, like head turns to cross the street or dancing to your favorite song, to become extremely difficult to perform.

What Happens When You Crack Your Neck?

As mentioned earlier, the neck pain that exists is only temporarily relieved the moment that we crack our necks and experience the jolt of the endorphins. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, the neck returns to its previous state. It then wants to be ‘cracked’ again. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “The “pop” of a cracked knuckle is caused by bubbles bursting in the synovial fluid. This is the fluid that helps lubricate joints. The bubbles pop when you pull the bones apart, creating negative pressure.” The synovial fluid is made up of dissolved oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. The reason that the feeling comes back within the half hour is because the gas needs time to dissolve back into the joint fluid. Meaning, there’s no permanent relief for the pain that’s occurring. Cracking your neck is just a quick fix.

What To Do Instead Of Cracking Your Neck

With the amount of time that we spend glued to our computers at work or at home, it’s no wonder that we feel constant stiffness and tightening in our necks. It may feel like we have no option to relieve this discomfort other than by cracking our necks. However, as we’ve come to learn of the dangers that are associated with the pesky ‘pop’, we’ve broken down four alternative ways to help break the habit and experience relief.

“Cracking your neck can lead to prolonged pain, loss of motion, and can sometimes be life-threatening.”

  1. Start with making the conscious decision that you will no longer crack your neck. Like most bad habits, we don’t realize we’re doing them until it’s too late. By recognizing how bad neck cracking is for your health, you’ll slowly start to minimize and, eventually, lose the habit completely.
  2. Look down. Simple movements like leaning your head down for thirty seconds at a time can cause the many bones and muscles in your neck to relieve built up tension.
  3. Try light stretches, instead. By moving your neck around carefully and slowly (without cracking), you’ll relieve the stiffness that is causing discomfort or pain. Some exercises include light head rolls, side to side stretches, and front to back movements.
  4. Complete neck training exercises. Your neck may be sore or uncomfortable because the muscles may be weak. Practice neck exercises often. You’ll strengthen your neck and may lessen the amount of discomfort that is caused by your daily routine.

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