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Home > Blog > How to Crack Your Neck and Relieve Muscle Tension?

If you experience neck pain, headaches, or get a stiff neck from sitting in front of the computer after long hours, neck cracking may be conducive and prove beneficial for relieving tension and living a healthier life. Releasing pressure in the shoulders or neck or as a reaction to stress is the most common reason for doing it but doing it incorrectly, too frequently, or forcefully can land you with even more pain and discomfort than you felt before cracking. Schedule an appointment with the award-winning therapists and physicians at the Physical Therapists NYC to discover how neck cracking can help you get rid of the pain in your neck, shoulders, and back. The top-rated therapists guide you regarding the potential risks, what happens when you try to crack your neck, and how to relieve muscle tension without causing any injury. They will create a comprehensive plan to ensure the best physical therapy outcomes to help you feel stronger in the long run.

Cracking your joints is a common habit, and most of us do it without even realizing what we are doing. We crack our knuckles, fingers, toes, backs, and even our necks. Even though it feels like cracking our neck may provide instant relief from muscle tension or spasms, there is no quick fix for chronic problems without seeing a healthcare provider who can recommend the best solutions for your condition.

Neck Cracking

What Is the Safest Way to Crack Your Neck?

You can crack your neck safely without causing further damage to your already strained and stiff neck. However, if you are new to cracking and have not tried it before, the best thing would be to find someone who can show or tell you how to do it right to avoid injury.

You should consult a physical therapist or a chiropractor who is known to be an expert in cracking necks and will guide you in the right direction.

What Makes That Cracking or Popping Sound?

When you crack your neck or any joint in the body, the capsules around the joints are stretched. These capsules contain fluid, and stretching them allows the fluid to put less pressure on the joint.

As the pressure lessens, the fluid in the joint turns to gas. When the fluid becomes gas, it makes a popping sound. This process is known as boiling or cavitation, and it is not harmful. Another theory suggests that the cracking noise is produced by a bubble being created in the joint.

The neck contains several sets of joints called facet joints. These joints are located on each side of your neck. When you crack the neck, the facet joints stretch and the fluid spreads out in the joint capsule. Once the fluid becomes gas, the neck joint pops. This makes neck cracking feel as if it is releasing pressure from the neck area.

How Can You Crack Your Neck?

To crack your neck, you should first find the spot where your head meets the spine and then use your hand to grab hold of the top or lower portion of this area. The next step is to twist at the waist while pulling with both hands so that you can feel a pop sound coming from the neck.

You will know it is safe when you do not feel any shooting pain in either direction after the pop.

What Are the Benefits of Cracking Your Neck?

There can be numerous benefits of cracking your neck. They include:

  • Improved circulation;
  • Relaxation of neck and back muscles;
  • Relief from joint pain;
  • Relief from headaches.

The best thing about cracking your neck is that it alleviates the pressure on the joints without any risk of injury or causing any side effects unless you already have an injury in the area where you are trying to break, such as whiplash. In such cases, you must avoid cracking your neck as it can prove to be dangerous.

How Does It Work?

  • Neck manipulation helps stretch or flex muscles and vertebrae, enabling them to move around better than when they are stiff.
  • Cracking your neck provides relief from muscle tension in the back and shoulders.
  • Constant hunching over a computer or driving for long periods can be very taxing on the neck muscles as well as shoulders, arm, and hand joints. The combined pressure of these parts often leads to chronic pain, and cracking your neck may provide relief.

You don’t have to suffer any more than necessary. Find a chiropractor and physical therapist in your area who will guide you about releasing tension from the neck muscles. By popping one vertebra at a time into place, your neck can gain mobility which helps relieve tension buildup that causes discomfort.

How to Crack Your Neck?

Some safe and recommended ways to crack your neck include:
Standing with your feet hip-width apart and slowly rolling the spine backward until you feel it pop. This will cause full extension of the spine and reduce any stiffness. Gentle manipulation like this should only take about ten seconds per side if it is performed the right way.

You can also try to use your hands for assistance by gently pushing on the back of your head by working out this move.

What Is the Safest Way to Crack Your Neck?

Even though many people think they are doing some exercise that will help their neck, excessive or forceful cracking can result in some injury such as muscle spasm or pinching between vertebrae that causes chronic pain. It is essential to be careful and practice a safe way to crack your neck, or it could result in a lot of pain.

If it is too tricky for you due to acute injury like whiplash, take it easy with neck manipulation until you have healed completely. It might sound counterintuitive, but it is best to avoid popping out anything in such a case as it may worsen the injury and land you with some complications. Also, it is advised that you avoid leaning in any direction when you are cracking your neck. Only apply pressure from one side of the spine at a time so that you do not cause further injury or pain.

Be very careful if you are taking any pain-relieving medications and consult with your doctor or physical therapist before attempting this move. Parents need to be very careful in this regard and never crack their child’s neck as the risks are too high for a growing body.

How Can a Chiropractor or Physical Therapist Crack Your Back?

Chiropractic care is a hands-on treatment customized to adjust the spine, providing relief from accumulated muscle tension. If you suffer from chronic lower back pain problems and stiffness caused by an accumulation of muscle tension, consulting a chiropractor may be a wise decision. The experienced chiropractor can help you seek relief from back pain by spinal manipulation and mobilization of the surrounding muscles and joints.

On the other hand, if you suffer from acute lower back pain that is not chronic and does not have any other symptoms such as fever or loss of bladder control, consulting a physician can help you find the best solution.

Self-care remedies for relieving tension include:

  • Applying ice to the affected or painful areas;
  • Stretching your back and neck muscles with gentle yoga poses;
  • Practicing deep breathing exercises when you feel tense. Inhale deeply through the nose, fill up your lungs, and then exhale slowly through pursed lips as if blowing out candles on a cake. Repeat five times;
  • Take long walks in nature or make time for relaxation activities such as sipping tea, reading fiction books, meditation, etc.

A thorough stretching routine before an activity can prevent injury by loosening tight muscles around joints like in the neck region. Most people experience stiffness due to the accumulation of muscle tension. For instance, one way to stretch your neck involves tucking in the chin while slowly rotating head clockwise until a feeling of release occurs at the base of the skull, followed by an upward rotation towards the ceiling.

Cervical spine

How to Release Tension in the Neck?

One way to release tension in the neck is by cracking your neck. It will relieve the pressure built up in the muscles and discs of the spine and take care of any tension headaches.

You must be very cautious when doing it because you can easily overdo it and cause further injury if you are not careful about how much force you apply, or if you do not protect your head while moving. In extreme cases, you can end up breaking your neck from a misstep.

If you want to crack your neck, make sure that you keep the following in mind:

  • You maintain a good balance before trying any move;
  • Your hands should always support the back of the skull at all times, even during the movement;
  • Avoid bending too far forward.

Now practice the following with your fingers on the top of the crown and your thumbs underneath it. Tighten up any muscles in the front of the next. Bring the chin to the chest by tucking your head down into the shoulder blades. It will make a cracking sound. Let go quickly but do not push too hard as it can result in injury. Repeat the movement until you reach the desired effect.

Consult your physical therapist or physician for how often you should crack your neck. Some suggest that it can be done every day, while others believe that it should be done only once a month if necessary. You must be very careful when trying to release tension and crack your neck to prevent injuring yourself further during the movement. You should be aware when tension occurs to take care of it before it becomes a bigger problem that requires professional treatment.

Neck Cracking and Paralysis – Is There Any Connection?

Many people fear cracking their necks as they are afraid of the possible consequences that accompany it.
They fear that they will become paralyzed, get a heart attack or suffer from headaches. It is essential to understand the connection between neck cracking and paralysis before moving forward.


Paralysis is when one or more muscles in the body stop working because they have been injured.
It can happen if you are not careful of how hard you twist your head around during a neck crack and hit the nerve compression points too hard, causing muscle damage. It could lead to temporary paralysis until sensation returns or not.

Symptoms include:

  • Tingling;
  • Numbness;
  • Pain;
  • Spasms;
  • Weakness.

It can be any sign from below any area where there was contact but not all.

Heart attack

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart decreases or stops, and fresh, oxygen-rich blood cannot reach the heart muscle. The lower oxygen levels in the bloodstream can cause an increase in a chemical called myocardial norepinephrine, which can result in physical changes.

Symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain;
  • Shortness of breath;
  • Lightheadedness.

These symptoms signify that it is not just neck discomfort but something else. However, a tingling sensation around the head could be a sign of something serious and needs prompt medical attention.

What to Do if You Experience These Symptoms?

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms related to paralysis or heart attack while cracking your neck, stop immediately and consult a doctor. The healthcare provider will ensure you have the best chance of avoiding any side effects.

You should not try neck cracking by yourself if you have not done this before or do not know how to do it right as it could result in injury or further pain.

3 signs you should not crack your neck

  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting as they could be a sign of thinning the blood;
  • Numbness around the head is a sign of muscle damage and could lead to paralysis if not treated immediately;
  • Sudden chest pain with shortness of breath indicates you may have heart problems.

If you face any of these signs, it is essential to get medical help as soon as possible. You should consult your healthcare provider about which treatments will work best in your case. Vising a physical therapist can also help you relieve muscle tension, improve movement and manage pain.

How to Pop Your Neck Right and Relieve the Pain?

You can pop your neck by moving it from side to side. Make sure to do it slowly and take care not to strain yourself as there is a risk of injury when popping the neck this way.

The best way to crack or pop your neck is through gentle but deliberate rotation of the head. The motion should be performed with one hand on either side of the base of the skull. The fingers should point forward towards shoulders at about 45 degrees angle, fingers touching, thumb facing inward towards each other just below the occipital ridge the back of our heads where you have moderate pain.

You can perform the movement like this:

  • Make small rotational circles downwards for five seconds in both directions, clockwise and counterclockwise;
  • Tilt your head down and to the left for about five seconds;
  • Tilt your head up and towards the right for another five seconds.

Performing these movements every few minutes throughout the day as needed or when you feel a tensed neck.

How Can a Chiropractor Crack Your Neck?

A chiropractor or a physical therapist is perhaps the only person who can crack your neck the right way, avoiding resulting injuries and pain. They are qualified and experienced health professionals who use spinal manipulation often by applying pressure on certain joints of the spine. This type of procedure involves cracking sounds from the neck or back as they are manipulated into alignment.

You must avoid trying these tasks at home because it can be dangerous if done incorrectly and cause injury. Knowing what happens when you crack your neck is essential and how the professional service provider will do it can prepare you beforehand. First, the doctor will place his hand around one side of your head, usually right up against either year and then push down with all his weight while pulling back with the other hand. It helps to alleviate pressure on neck joints and muscles that causes headaches, pain in the shoulders or upper back, and stiffness in the neck and head.

You should feel a pop when the doctor cracks the spine. It is not usually painful but the suddenness of the movement may startle and make you jump. Breaking your neck can put you at risk for ruptured disc or nerve damage. Incorrect moves can also result in an injury like muscle spasms or paralysis from wearing an improperly functioning cervical spine brace. It is the reason doctors and physical therapists examine you before moving forward with treatments to make sure you do not end up with any severe problems to your neck or spine.

Tips on Staying Away From Neck Pain

If you cannot visit a chiropractor or physical therapist during the next few days, there are some small steps that you can take to find temporary relief from neck pain. It is essential to remember that these tips will only treat the symptoms and not the underlying cause. They include:

  • Better aligned posture for sitting and standing;
  • Taking frequent breaks;
  • Adjusting your desk, chair, and computer;
  • Avoiding carrying heavy bags with straps over your shoulder;
  • Sleeping in a good position.

You may feel better by making these changes, but you must know that the noise and ultimate release that comes with twisting your neck is from joints and receptors and is not the cause of the problem. You are moving these joints to their end range of motion releasing built-up gas in the joints. It is the reason the problem keeps on coming back. Seeking professional help is necessary for finding long-term relief from neck pain.

Cracking your neck is a safe and effective way to relieve muscle tension and alleviate shoulder, neck, or head pain. It can also help with headaches if done regularly, but you do not try this at home as cracking your neck the wrong way could increase your pain, over-stretch your ligaments, or damage the vertebrae in your spine.

Consult top-rated therapists and physicians at the Physical Therapists NYC to learn about neck cracking and if it is the right way to get rid of muscle tension. Experienced physical therapists and physicians evaluate your physical condition before going ahead with neck adjustment or cervical manipulation to align your upper spine. They also know how to work with their patients keeping in mind their condition and level of neck tension and pain they are suffering. The highly trained and skilled therapists help people overcome their physical ailments to live the best life they can with effective solutions that provide long-term relief.


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