During the day, we may feel the need to get up, move around and then, crack our neck, back or even knuckles due to poor posture, body positioning or from being hunched over a desk all day.
So what is that popping noise?
Throughout the body joints are covered in a synovial fluid that acts as a lubricant. Inside this fluid, oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide are found. When a manipulation is performed, the force, that is applied to the segment, separates the articular surfaces of the joint which creates a reduction of pressure. This reduction of pressure within the joint, creates bubbles, or cavities, from the gases found in the fluid which make the cracking or popping noise that people are familiar with.
But why do we do it?
The simple answer is because it feels good.
Even though doing this may feel good, what a lot of people fail to understand is that there a number of health risks associated with cracking your own neck.
Your neck contains many important and delicate structures such as blood vessels, bones, muscles, ligaments, joints, glands, and more importantly nerves and spinal cords.
When you manipulate your own neck, a lot of force is required to create a cavitation (crack). Not only is a lot of force required, the manipulation is not specific to a certain segment of your cervical spine (neck). This means that a joint that was previously in the correct position may now be misaligned and could complicate the condition further.
At some point, self-manipulation of the cervical spine stops becoming therapeutic and becomes a habit. When a joint is self-manipulated too much, due to the force and incorrect technique, the ligaments begin to loosen and hypermobility starts to occur. Prolonged hypermobility may increase the risk of osteoarthritis and other complications.
Not only could it affect the overall structure of your neck, but it may cause neurological complications. Constant self manipulation may cause nerve irritation which could have adverse effects such as headaches, dizziness or even paresthesia.
Even though these are the negative points of self neck manipulation, adjustments do have a positive effect on the body when performed by a trained professional.