Is it Bad to Crack your Neck? Here is the Truth

One of the absolute best ways to relieve pain in your neck is through an adjustment. Now an adjustment feels awesome and does a lot of good for our bodies, but there is a time and place for an adjustment, especially to your cervical spine aka your neck. Cracking your neck incorrectly or without the proper prescreening and technique from a chiropractor can have life-altering results. In this article, we will discuss what happens to your neck during an adjustment and what the incorrect and correct way to do it are.

What Happens When Your Neck “Cracks”

Besides the addictive “crack” or “pop” that happens when your neck is adjusted, what else happens? Well in order to understand the complete picture we have to understand the intricate and close relationship between the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system. The cervical spine, which is the portion of the spine in your neck, is located in the most important point of the relationship between the two systems.

human body sculptureYour nervous system controls the nerves and feelings that happen within your musculoskeletal system throughout your entire body. Your cervical spine hosts your brain stem, or your medulla oblongata. Everytime you are adjusting a part of the spine you are activating the nervous system. So a cervical adjustment is activating not only the nervous system in the neck region but also the cerebral cortex which is the mainframe of the entire nervous system.

So what does “nervous system activation” mean? Something that plays a central role in the pain you feel in your musculoskeletal system is inflammation. Inflammation is mainly caused by nerve irritation. Nerve irritation can happen from acute injuries, chronic injuries, scar tissue, etc. When you are adjusting your spine, you are promoting anti-inflammatory responses from your nervous system and correcting the spine to natural formation.

man sitting on chair outside building during daytime

As modern day humans we tend to put our spines in situations that cause inflammation and pain. Sitting in a chair all day, staring at our phone, and other modern day activities wreak havoc on our musculoskeletal systems. Treatments such as chiropractic adjustments, massage therapy, physical therapy and others help us to properly heal and maintain our musculoskeletal systems. There is a correct and incorrect way for each of these treatments however. It may seem doable however letting your friend adjust your neck could end up in life altering injuries. Everything should also be done by a licensed medical provider.

The Incorrect Way

There are things a doctor knows about the human body that the average person just simply isn’t as educated on. For example: an improper adjustment can cause someone to have a stroke in their brainstem due to excessive force to the vertebral artery in the neck. This example is due to improper adjustment techniques. Excessive force can happen either by an untrained person adjusting you and even you yourself using your hand to push your neck past the natural range of motion. Another way an adjustment can go very badly is if the proper screening and diagnostic evaluation is not done prior to the adjustment. You may have a sensitive condition within your neck that needs to be considered before an adjustment is done.

man in black suit standing beside woman in white coat

As we age there are conditions we start to accumulate throughout our bodies. There is no way to accurately assess the state of a musculoskeletal system without diagnostic tests such as X-rays, MRI, Physical Evaluation, etc. An elderly patient with severe and sensitive musculoskeletal conditions would not receive the same cervical adjustment technique a young and healthy patient would.

There are a variety of adjustment techniques that are used depending on the situation the chiropractor is faced with. Being able to correctly identify which technique, if any, to use is only done through proper medical diagnostic tests and evaluations. So if you are sitting at your house and your friend suggests they can help you crack your neck or you are pushing on your neck with your hand to adjust your neck: you have absolutely skipped every single crucial procedure. The human body is more complex than we even understand today.

man reading papers in front of computer

These situations are only navigated correctly through the discretion of a licensed musculoskeletal physician such as a chiropractor. A chiropractor is not only going to be able to adjust you the correct way but they will educate you on your condition and the correct stretches and exercises to do for your specific condition.

The Correct Way

If you have never been to a chiropractor it may surprise you that you don’t just walk in, lay on a table and get your neck “cracked”. If a chiropractor does do this then they are extremely irresponsible and have gone against proper medical procedure. The correct protocol is to first physically evaluate the patient. This should be the first healthcare action a chiropractor should deliver to a patient. Then if a diagnostic test such as an X-ray needs to be done it will be prescribed for the patient. Being able to analyze these scans will give much more information into what is going on. 

Free stock photo of anatomical, anatomy, backbone

Everything should start with a physical evaluation. A physical evaluation is much more than just looking at a person’s back. An evaluation includes testing the patient’s range of motion, pain free mobility, pain filled areas, flexibility, tolerances, and determining if further tests such as an X-ray needs to be done. An experienced chiropractor will be able to catch important cues to certain conditions. If a patient has a very sensitive and injured cervical spine then a chiropractor may use a very delicate adjustment technique or may not adjust them at all. Each patient’s correct way is unique to their condition. Some require less force than others and in general pushing your neck past the point of your natural range of motion is something only a trained chiropractor can feel with their hands.

The correct way to heal a person’s neck goes beyond just the adjustment. The correct way is to not only deliver manual treatments just as adjustments but it is to also teach a patient how to take care of their bodies when they are not in the clinic. This is why at Underwood Healthcare we teach and equip our patients with the knowledge necessary to maintain their health. We give our patients the ability to not only experience chiropractic care such as adjustments but also other treatment methods such as massage therapy, acupuncture, CBD therapy, physical therapy, and more. We want to make sure that every single one of our patients gets the opportunity and access to treat their specific needs. We started that mission 25 years ago and will continue to help the community of Tampa Bay. If you are in the area and are seeking an evaluation of your musculoskeletal system: give us a call. 

Watch Dr. Underwood Explain It

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