I know it feels good. You’re sitting at your desk, waiting in traffic, or standing in line at the grocery store, and you start to feel the tension building in your neck, and you know relief is only a head twist away. Unfortunately, this is one of the worst things you can do to your neck. You’re perpetuating the problem, setting yourself up for lots more tension, stress, spasms, and degeneration down the line.
When a joint is misaligned, it becomes hypomobile, meaning it doesn’t have the proper range of motion. However, you still have to move your neck to live your life, so the body tries to correct the problem. The joints above and below the misaligned segment become hypermobile (move too much); they compensate for the hypomobile joint. Because of this, you can move your head and neck around without noticing the problem. However, over time you may feel stiffness and tension in your neck and shoulders because your muscles and the rest of your joints are working overtime to make up for the slacker segment that’s not doing its job.
A chiropractor is specially trained to identify the misaligned hypomobile joint and carefully correct it. However, when you crack your own neck, you are moving the joints that are already hypermobile, making them even more mobile which only perpetuates the problem and leads to degeneration. Also, when you crack your neck excessively, it stretches the ligaments that support the spine which can lead to instability.
If it’s so bad for you, why does it feel so good? Well, when you crack your own neck, you’re still releasing some built up gas within the joints, relieving some pressure. Also, you’re creating lots of movement (just in the wrong places) which blocks the pain signals to your brain temporarily, but the original culprit, the hypomobile joint is still there.
So what do you do? Get adjusted of course!
Although, if you can’t get to the chiropractor in time, try gently stretching your neck through its normal range of motion. It will help relieve some of the tension without causing additional damage.