neck cracking

by Dennis Nelson
(Minneapolis, minnesota, usa)

I feel the need to "crack my neck" by tilting my head back. Often this produces a "cracking" sound and my neck feels better. I do this quite often throughout the day for almost a year now. Lately, I have been experiencing tingling in my left hand as well as stiff shoulders and neck. Any ideas?

Hello Dennis,
Yes, I have some quite strong ideas.

Chiropractic manipulation of a joint, in the neck, say, is done with distraction, pulling the cartilage lining the bones apart, so as not to injure it. You can't do that, when manipulating your own neck.

Also, in my opinion, though others may disagree, a joint should not be manipulated more than, say, 25 times in a year. You are doing that in a week.

In my experience, cracking your own neck inevitably leads to further injury to the joint and a pinched nerve causing pain and tingling down the arm. You may get short term relief, but it's aggravating the problem. I seen it so many times in the practice. Eventually the arm pain becomes far worse that the neck pain ever was.

My solution is:

1. Stop manipulating your own neck, totally and completely.

2. Have a regular massage of your neck, perhaps from your wife, or sports masseur.

3. Start doing some gentle neck exercises every day. You'll find some using the search function at Chiropractic Help.

4. Consult a chiropractor and go for an occasional, but regular manipulation with distraction. Not too often, as you probably have already had more manipulation that I would recommend in a lifetime. You may need half a dozen treatments initially.

An xrays is important in my book to understand why you have to manipulate your neck, what is the underlying condition, how much harm you've done to your neck, and what the prognosis is.

Don't expect to be cured; this is a problem like diabetes that needs management, occasional treatment from your doctor, and plenty of home management, done by yourself.

Good luck. This might be tough.

I hope this contributes.

Dr B

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