Resulting in a sound produced when gas pops out of fluid in a joint in the cervical spine, joint cracking (crepitus) in the neck is usually heard or felt when your neck has been suddenly twisted or turned beyond its natural range of motion. Oftentimes this sound is nothing to be alarmed about, but there are instances where there may be cause for concern. Los Angeles neck specialists discuss the differences between harmless and serious neck cracking.
Harmless Neck Cracking
Stemming from joints supporting the seven bones of your cervical spine, neck cracking is often harmless. There is no evidence to suggest cracking is linked to joint damage or that it’s a sign of arthritis or similar conditions. To determine if your neck cracking is from the release of gas from a joint, repeat the movement. If it doesn’t happen again, it’s likely harmless.
Neck Cracking That Requires Attention
Neck cracks might be a more serious concern if the sound occurs each time you move your neck in the same way, which usually indicates some type of structural issue with a joint, cervical vertebra, or disc. You’ll also want to pay attention to joint cracking coupled with swelling or pain or cracking associated with recent neck surgery, a sudden trauma, or a neck injury.
Neck cracking may also be caused by:
- Ligaments connected to part of a vertebra becoming loose
- Osteoarthritis affecting the neck
- Disc degeneration of the cervical spine
- Cervical spondylosis (age-related wear and tear)
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you’re experiencing symptoms that suggest your neck cracking isn’t the harmless kind, get a diagnosis to determine if there’s a serious issue. Treatment depends on the source of the pain, although non-surgical neck treatments are the most common remedies, often including temporary use of a neck collar and physical therapy.
Neck rolls and chin-to-chest motions are a few of the exercises you can do to strengthen your neck muscles to reduce instances of neck cracking. If cracks or pops are accompanied by pain that sticks around, visit your doctor to see if there is another source of your discomfort.
At The Spine Institute Center, we specialize in procedures designed to alleviate long-term neck and back pain, including the vertebroplasty, spinal fusion, and XLIF surgery Los Angeles patients swear by. For more information and to schedule an in-person evaluation to diagnose the source of your neck pain, call our office today at 310-828-7757.