Popping Your Own Neck - Helpful Or Dangerous?
Even though it feels better short term, you're probably making your long term pain worse
How many times have you been sitting in line or waiting in a lobby and have seen someone just almost twist their head off of their body? Not only does it look terrible and scary, but they may also be doing themselves more damage than they know. Popping your own neck is no joke and the first step to stopping is to know the dangers.
What’s the worst that can happen?
Stroke & Death
A stroke & potential death is the worst that can happen from popping your own neck. More specifically, it is termed a vertebral artery dissection (VAD) and there’s nothing good about it. Some people recover while some do not.
According to Dr. Jeff Williams, a chiropractor in Amarillo, TX, there is most certainly a chance that an unlicensed person “playing chiropractor” and popping necks or people popping their own necks can directly cause VAD.
He adds that there is a myth circulating that even licensed Doctors of Chiropractic can cause a stroke. He notes that it is mostly a false rumor and expounds on it in this blog entry: https://www.chiropracticforward.com/blog-post/debunked-the-odd-myth-that- chiropractors-cause-strokes-revisited/
However, the point being made is if licensed chiropractors that know what they are doing can be accused of causing strokes, is there not a REAL concern that popping your own neck can absolutely cause the problem? Of course, there is.
People suffering from neck pain don’t realize that chiropractors (the ones that know what they’re doing) cannot even adjust or fix THEMSELVES. They lack the vantage point and the ability to accomplish the direction of correction. What are the chances that popping your own neck will actually “fix” the issue when you typically do not know the anatomy, the techniques, have the correct positioning, or have any background to set yourself up for success?
Oh, and licensed chiropractors can’t even fix themselves, but we already said that.
People are popping their own necks over and over because the pain keeps bothering them over and over. What they are doing, in reality, is moving every joint in the neck that does NOT need to be moved rather than working on the dysfunctional area that DOES need to be moved. It’s a downward spiral that continues to perpetuate until the person is left with serious instability in their neck.
If you have been popping your own neck, you will probably admit that popping your own neck has become easier and easier to accomplish over the years. Everything that is supposed to be holding the spine tightly together gets more loose and unstable. By “everything” we are referring to the connective tissues of the neck, the postural muscles of the neck, and the ligaments of the neck. These structures help steady and stabilize what is essentially a bowling ball sitting atop a small stack of bones and cartilage.
If you keep decreasing the stability of these structures, it only makes sense that you begin to suffer the consequences in the form of chronic pain and chronic dysfunction of the joints. As your spine becomes more and more moveable and unstable, the movement and activity within the joints of the neck increases. This has the potential and likelihood to increase irritation, inflammation, degeneration, and pain.
The neck will get more chronic and more unstable as time marches and as the person keeps on twisting and cracking the neck. Your spine wants to be stiff and strong so when you create more mobility through self-adjusting constantly, the larger postural muscles of the region will likely stiffen to compensate. So you can likely end up with a hypermobile neck that feels stiff. If that makes sense.
Many times the self-adjuster will say that their neck always hurts and “cracking” it helps it to feel better. It feels better for a brief time, sure, but it always comes back. That is because the self-adjuster is not fixing the problem. They are causing an endorphin dump that makes it feel better briefly but that is the only thing they have accomplished.
Think about it this way: it’s like telling your mom that you’ve found the absolute worst chiropractor in town. This terrible chiropractor is super cheap, very accessible, and has really convenient hours but is honestly a really, REALLY terrible chiropractor and just doesn’t seem to know their stuff very well. In fact, they basically don’t know what they’re talking about at all!
Not only that, but you’re going to visit this REALLY TERRIBLE chiropractor approximately 5-10 times PER DAY.
What would your Mom say to you?
Exactly. She'd say you have lost your mind.
“Why would you ever start seeing this unqualified and incapable person and please stop doing it right now.”
Stop popping your own neck.
Take the time to get it fixed correctly and you’ll stop thinking about wanting to pop it all of the time. Take the time to get the correct area working right and then strengthen and stabilize the neck rather than continuing to pop and mobilize in an unending cycle.
You’ll just stop thinking about it because it will hopefully stop bothering you altogether. But, you’ve done the damage and you need to take the time to do the fixing.
A chronic problem can typically be resolved to a satisfactory level of recovery in approximately 20 or so visits. Some patients would certainly require more attention while others wouldn’t need nearly that much. It would require exercise and rehabilitation to try to strengthen and attempt to stabilize the area as well.
You have spent years messing it up and now it's time to start fixing it.
The first step, however, is to stop self-adjusting immediately. The sooner you stop popping it, the sooner it starts getting better.
The second step is to call an evidence-based, patient-centered Doctor of Chiropractic and let them start the work of getting you back on track.
You don’t know what you don’t know but....now you know.
The next time you see someone cracking their neck when you are out and about, stop them and tell them why. Then tell them who to call to help them make it better.
Dr. Jeff Williams, DC, FIANM, DABFP is double Board Certified as a Fellow in Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine and Orthopedics as well as a Diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Professionals, and chiropractor in Amarillo, TX. As an Amarillo chiropractor, Dr. Williams treats chronic pain, disc pain, low back pain, neck pain, whiplash injuries, and more. Dr. Williams is also the host of The Chiropractic Forward Podcast (https://www.chiropracticforward.com). Through the podcast, Dr. Williams teaches fellow chiropractors and advocates weekly for evidence-based, patient-centered practice through current and relevant research. If you have any questions for Dr. Williams, feel free to email at [email protected] Learn more about Dr. Williams and his practice at https://www.amarillochiropractor.com.
Dr. Williams was voted Best Chiropractor In Amarillo in the Best of Amarillo 2020 & 2021. Dr. Williams's full-time Amarillo chiropractic practice is Creek Stone Integrated Medical at 3501 SW 45th St., Ste. T, Amarillo, TX 79109. If you are searching for a chiropractor near me, Dr. Williams is your Amarillo Chiropractor.
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Jeff S Williams, DC, FIANM, DABFP