You’re feeling stiff and achy, so you roll your neck and shoulders around to relieve some tension… and suddenly, *crack*—there goes your neck! You might be thinking, “Do I need a chiropractor?” or simply curious as to what the hell is cracking in there and what those neck noises mean. So what’s up with all that? Why is your neck cracking?
Why is your neck cracking?
Physical therapist Sridhar Yalamanchili, PT, MSPT, with Atlantic Spine Center in New Jersey says that neck cracking is exceedingly common—it happens to almost everyone—and it happens for various reasons, including general stiffness in that section of the spine. “Stiffness in some of the vertebrae, cavitation, in addition to movement of the tendons and ligaments that support the neck can all cause cracking,” says Yalamanchili. The good news? “Most of the time these noises are harmless.”
But what exactly is cracking, and what is that noise? “The noise is not from the bones or cartilage breaking or rubbing,” says Joshua Scott, MD, board-certified primary care sports medicine physician at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles. It’s actually, most likely, bubbles making that noise.