Is Cracking Your Neck Bad For You?

Updated in December 2023

Cracking your neck can be harmful if it is not done properly or if it is done frequently. Cracking your neck with excessive force can injure nerves in the area, which can be extremely painful and compromise neck mobility. 

Feeling the need to crack your neck often may be a sign of hypermobility, which is a condition in which the joints have a larger range of motion than usual. Cracking your neck frequently may permanently stretch your ligaments, increasing your risk for osteoarthritis. 

The neck also contains many small blood vessels that can rupture if you crack your neck frequently or with excess force. There is also a risk for blood clot formation as a result, which can be dangerous and block blood flow to the brain.

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What happens when you crack your neck?

Your joints are lubricated with a thin fluid with small air bubbles to facilitate smooth movements. When you stretch your neck muscles, your joints stretch and occupy more space, causing the bubbles to pop and make a sound. This is why it feels like pressure is relieved when you crack your neck.

Why does cracking your neck feel good? 

Studies show that having your neck cracked by a physiotherapist can have a positive mental effect. Many people associate the cracking sounds with a release of pressure and with the feeling that the joints have been readjusted. 

Cracking your neck also releases endorphins in the area, which are a substance that help to manage pain and increase pleasure sensations. 

When to see a physiotherapist

People who frequently crack their neck and are unable to feel “relief” from it should see a healthcare professional for assessment. Treatment may be needed to realign the joints, which can reduce the urge to crack your neck. 

In addition, you should see your doctor if you notice unusual neck swelling or a lump on your neck. This may be a sign of accumulated fluid, an injury or an infection, all of which can contribute to pain in the area and stiffening of the neck.