When a person moves their neck, it doesn’t always make a sound. When this is the case, it may indicate the presence of an underlying condition that may warrant medical intervention. A person may notice a slight popping or cracking sound from time to time when moving their neck or back. Often, this noise is due to the movement of air trapped in the fluid of the joints. It can also be due to slight changes in the way ligaments or tendons move. However, if accompanied by swelling or pain, this noise may indicate an underlying health condition.
In this article, we will discuss some possible causes of neck cracking noises and when a person can consider contacting a doctor.
Causes and Risk Factors of Crackles in the Neck
There are several potential causes of neck noises. Some of them are benign, and others may require treatment.
A popping, popping or popping sound in the neck or other joints is not necessarily a sign that something is wrong. This is a common occurrence, even in younger people who have no history of joint damage or injury. The two most common benign causes are air leaking from the synovial fluid that surrounds and lubricates the joints, and tight ligaments that break off from one bone to attach to another. Generally, a person does not need to do anything to remedy the noises their neck makes during movement unless it causes pain or swelling.
Joint damage or injury
An injury can lead to degeneration and damage to the neck joints. Several factors can cause neck injuries, such as car accidents, falls or shocks during sports activities. When a person injures their neck, they may experience the following symptoms:
shoulder or arm pain
A person will probably know if they have injured their neck in an accident. However, if she has any doubts, she should consider seeing a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
There are over 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions that affect the joints, the tissues around the joints, and other connective tissues. Several types of arthritis can affect the joints in the neck and spine, such as cervical spondylosis. It is a condition that causes deterioration of the vertebrae, discs and ligaments of the neck or cervical spine.
In addition to neck pain and stiffness, arthritis can cause grinding or rattling sounds when moving the neck.
Over time, poor posture can lead to wear or damage to the neck. When this happens, a person may experience pain in the neck, arms, head, or shoulders. Also, she may feel stiffness and popping or popping noises when she moves her neck.
To diagnose neck noises, a person should see a medical professional. The doctor will likely start by reviewing the person’s medical history and performing a physical exam. In particular, he will take the person’s vital signs and examine his symptoms. He will also assess the range of motion and the pain or discomfort felt when moving the neck. Also, he may order certain tests to examine the structures of the neck or assess the function of these structures to help make a diagnosis. These tests may include:
nerve conduction studies
selective nerve root block
Magnetic resonance imaging
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of a person’s symptoms. However, doctors will likely start with conservative treatments to help relieve symptoms. These treatments may include:
performing physical therapy
wearing a cervical collar
taking prescription medications, such as muscle relaxants or painkillers
receiving steroid injections
take steps to correct posture while walking, standing, sitting, and sleeping.
In some cases, the doctor may recommend strength exercises to reduce pain and stiffness. Strength exercises can also help stretch the neck. Here are some examples:
tilt the head from side to side lowering the ear to the shoulder and returning to a normal resting position, and repeat 5 times on each side
turn head side to side, looking over shoulder, and repeat 5 times on each side
drop the head forward so that the chin meets the chest, then raise the head and repeat the operation 5 times.
Here are some other strategies for relieving neck cracking and other symptoms:
hot or cold therapy
acupuncture or shiatsu
posture correcting devices, such as pillows or cushions.
When to contact a doctor
There is no need to contact a medical professional if you hear a popping or cracking sound without other symptoms. In this case, the cracking is likely due to escaping air or tight ligaments snapping on the bones as they move. If the noises are accompanied by pain, stiffness, swelling, or other symptoms, the person should consider seeing a doctor. The latter will be able to examine and determine the cause of the problem and provide treatment if necessary. A person should seek emergency care if they experience blunt force trauma resulting in injury, such as impact while playing sports or in a car accident.
Hearing cracking noises in the neck during movement does not always require medical attention. These noises can often be caused by air escaping fluid around joints or tight tendons rubbing or snapping against bones. If the noise is not accompanied by other symptoms, the person probably does not need to do anything about it.
However, if there is pain, stiffness, or other symptoms, the person should consider seeing a doctor. This can help diagnose the cause and recommend treatments for any underlying conditions. Treatment options often involve strength training, pain medication, and posture correction.