Whether it's your knuckles, neck, back, hips or ankles, hearing a satisfying pop can make you feel good. But when is cracking your neck bad, and how do you avoid harming yourself?
The good news is that cracking your own neck - with the help of a friend - isn't too dangerous. The danger is in applying too much pressure and causing damage to the spine or spinal ligaments. This can result in permanent injury or neck pain. It's best to leave neck cracking to professionals such as a physical therapist or chiropractor.
When done correctly, cracking your neck may relieve pressure on the joints and relieve pain or stiffness. But it's important to be gentle, especially if you are new to the technique.
To properly crack your neck, sit up tall and stretch the area of your neck that you want to pop. Place your right hand on the top of your head, palm facing out, and your left hand on the base of your skull with your fingers pointing toward each other just below the occipital ridge (the curved part at the back of the neck). Gently rotate your neck to the right for 10 to 15 seconds. Stop if you notice any shooting pain in either direction or if you hear a popping noise.
Once your neck has been cracked, it can take about 20 minutes for the spinal fluid to build back up to its normal level. If you continue to crack your neck after this timeframe, you should talk to a doctor.