There are many different options for neck and shoulder treatment and a lot of people prefer the convenience of treating themselves. “Cracking” one’s own neck and shoulders may seem more convenient than having it done by a professional. While it is usually safe to have this procedure performed by a qualified professional such as a chiropractor, there is a question of whether it is safe to perform this procedure on oneself.
The “cracking” noise is called a cavitation and is merely gas leaving a joint. A cavitation may occur when a joint moves within its normal range of motion, or when it is taken to end-range and a high velocity-low amplitude thrust, or an adjustment, is applied. In either instance, a cavitation is usually a safe side effect of joint motion.
When moving a joint through its normal range of motion, any cavitation which occurs is completely safe. Lying flat on the floor or turning one’s own head and neck can produce a cavitation and relieve pain by gently removing restrictions. As long as no pain is experienced, there is no major risk of injury.
The Great Neck Cracking
Some people take this procedure further. They will twist their own necks, taking the joint to end-range, and deliver an impulse. There is a rumor that doing this may cause arthritis. While it is simply a rumor and arthritis will not result from “cracking” one’s own neck, it is not recommended. Most likely, the worst result will be a sprain/strain injury. However, recovery from a sprain/strain injury, especially in the neck, can be painful and may take a few weeks to completely resolve.
Having a professional perform an adjustment significantly reduces any risk of an adverse effect. Qualified professionals in the United States who are allowed to perform adjustments include chiropractors, osteopathic physicians, and some physical therapists. A professional can assess the direction and the degree in which a joint is restricted and then apply the appropriate force. A professional may also incorporate other modalities such as soft tissue therapy, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound to reinforce the adjustment. These therapeutic procedures will help to reduce pain and inflammation, while helping to improve function and motion on the tissues surrounding the affected joint.
When “cracking” one’s own neck, people risk inducing motion in the wrong direction. The joints, ligaments and tendons can become irritated, resulting in a sprain/strain injury. Even if a sprain/strain injury does not occur, most likely the wrong segment will not be corrected and the original problem will never be fixed. Pain and discomfort may not be experienced at the joint which is causing the original problem.
While it may be considered “safe” to “crack” one’s own neck and shoulders, it is not recommended. By having a qualified professional perform an adjustment, not only will individuals reduce the risks of injury, but they will also be able to fully experience the complete benefit of a proper treatment.
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