A clicking or cracking sound heard when tilting or turning your neck is often nothing more than muscle tension that will go away after a good stretch. Neck cracking, called “cavitation” by chiropractors, may reach a point where it’s more than just a minor irritation.
Reasons for Neck Cracking
The “cracking” sound that occurs with neck cracking is often the result of tense muscles causing vertebrae to rub against each other during normal movements. It’s usually resolved by stretching the affected muscles to relieve the tension, a process referred as an articular release. Frequent neck cracking may also be related to:
- Herniated cervical discs
- Adhesions in neck joints
- Excessive muscle flexing
- Stress or anxiety
- Poor posture
When Neck Cracking Becomes a Problem
The only direct symptom of neck cracking is the audible cracking sound itself. If muscle spasms occur on a regular basis, you may experience additional symptoms from the tension and related pressure on nerves and joints. Neck cracking becomes a problem if it’s accompanied by:
- Neck or upper back pain
- Pain or swelling
- Regular headaches
Neck Cracking Following Trauma or Injury
Neck cracking may occur as the result of sudden trauma to a joint of the neck, as is the case with whiplash or injury from a hard fall or sharp twist. If you’ve had recent neck surgery, cracking, which should be reported to your board-certified orthopedic surgeon, may appear afterwards. It’s also wise to seek medical attention if neck cracking is associated with:
- Loss of range of motion
- Pain associated with movement
- Arm numbness or tingling due to nerve compression
Treating Neck Cracking
If other conditions are ruled out, some type of massage therapy or physical therapy may be recommended. Inflammation may be eased with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or muscle relaxants. Some patients also respond well to chiropractic adjustments.
Neck cracking only becomes a serious issue when it’s associated with persistent pain or additional symptoms beyond the clicking sound. Surgery may be an option if there is an issue with any of the bones of your neck, supporting discs, or joints that can’t be resolved with non-surgical treatments. A Los Angeles spine surgeon can review your specific case and determine the right treatment options for you.
If it’s time to seek professional help, turn to The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration. Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of spine surgeons specialize in minimally invasive procedures including spinal decompression surgery that can provide you with the relief you need to resume your normal activities. Call us today at (310) 828-7757 and schedule an appointment.