Should You Be Cracking Your Neck? Medical Studies Show What Happens

Safer Alternatives If You Enjoy Neck Cracking

By Coach E

Should You Be Cracking Your Neck Medical Studies Show What Happens

Do you ever wonder if you should be cracking your neck? Maybe it feels good, or it’s just something your chiropractor does as part of your adjustments.

Hi, I’m Dr. B, an orthopaedic surgeon, and Precision Movement’s Chief Medical officer. Today, we’re going to discuss whether you should crack your neck.

I have patients come in, and they’re like, “Doc, you know I crack my neck, and it really feels good.”

The bottom line is don’t crack your neck.

What Is Cracking Your Neck?

We’re not really 100% certain what happens when you crack your neck. It could be that a muscle or a piece of fascia moves across a joint, or, like when you crack your knuckle, a little nitrogen bubble pops and makes a noise, and it often does feel better.

But I don’t advocate for high-velocity neck cracking. I’ve seen people take their hands and jolt their necks.

Why It’s Bad

Bad things can happen. Many important structures in the neck, like blood vessels and nerves, can be damaged.

There’s also evidence and reports in the medical literature of chiropractors who’ve made these high-velocity neck adjustments, and people died, or people were paralyzed.

Case Study Examples

For example, in 2018, a study was published titled “The potential dangers of neck manipulation and risk for dissection and devastating stroke.” [1]

The study is about a 32-year-old woman who underwent chiropractic manipulation and had vertebral artery dissection. (A vertebral artery dissection is when a tear occurs in one or more of the three tissue layers in the vertebral artery.) She quickly deteriorated and passed away shortly after arrival at the hospital.

The authors also cite a recent systematic review that found 901 cases of cerebral artery dissections reported in the literature in relation to chiropractic manipulation.

In 707 of these cases, the patient went on to develop some type of stroke. There are other interesting stats in the article if you want to read it in the link above.

At 29, I was diagnosed with serious multiple herniated discs in my spine and also stenosis in my neck, and some doctors were worried even about possible full-body paralysis.

My overall stiffness decreased, and my neck felt much more relaxed. Now I am able to enjoy my days again, to do long walks and even hiking and I still feel that I have the potential to further improve my condition.”

– Peter

Examples of Appropriate Neck Cracking

Chiropractors do a lot of good things. However, neck adjustments are not one of them.

There is no evidence in the literature that adjustments do anything. Now, if you are doing an exercise routine and do some active self-myofascial release of the muscles in your neck and your neck cracks on its own, that’s fine. Or if you activate a muscle and turn your head and find that your neck cracks, that’s fine, too.

I don’t worry about those situations at all because it’s a lower velocity, and the tissues are naturally lengthening and remodeling. This kind of cracking can occur.

Do you want to listen to the explanation instead? Click over to our YouTube video “Neck Cracking: Should You (or a Chiropractor) Crack Your Neck?

What Should You Do Instead?

Cracking your neck on purpose, aka high-velocity cracking, is a no-go in my book.

Now that you know this, you shouldn’t crack your neck or go to a chiropractor for neck adjustments.

Instead, you should visit Neck Pain Solution, which will address the root causes of your neck pain and establish a foundation for movement.

We also have a couple more articles that you might find helpful, especially if your neck is feeling tight or sore right now.

The Best Exercise for Neck Pain Relief & Tightness – learn a simple exercise for neck pain relief that will quickly bring down the pain a few notches.

3 Exercises for a Stiff & Sore Neck – addressing a sore neck before it turns into neck pain can make you feel better, work better, hit the gym better, and even look better.

About the Author

Eric Wong (aka Coach E) is the founder of Precision Movement and has a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Waterloo. He's been a coach since 2005 and spent his early career training combat athletes including multiple UFC fighters and professional boxers. He now dedicates himself to helping active people eliminate pain and improve mobility. He lives in Toronto (Go Leafs Go!) with his wife and two kids and drinks black coffee at work and IPAs at play. Click here to learn more about Eric.