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Neck Cracking & Stroke: How Risky Is It?

A complimentary head and neck massage at your favourite salon or spa centre after a long tiring day will make you feel replenished. However, this so-called harmless neck massage may prove to be life-threatening for you.

Neck cracking, also known as neck popping, is a common phenomenon that happens due to unnatural neck movements. Most people do a ritual neck popping after a haircut or head massage. The professionals generally handle it, but it is important to know that it can cause harm to your neck ligaments or bones. There are three main reasons why joints, and especifically the neck, will crack:

  • Arthritis: If a joint is affected by arthritis (the cartilage may lose its smoothness). As the joint surface gets coarser, it can make a noise when it moves.
  • Escaping gas: There is a fluid in our joints that help tissue and bones to move smoothly together. This fluid has oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. In you neck, there are paired joints called facet joints that run up and down each side. Each facet joint has a capsule around it that is filled with gas and fluid. 

When joint capsule is stretched, gas is released rapidly in the form of bubbles. This release of gas makes a cracking and popping sound. The process is also referred to as “cavitation” or “boiling.”

  • Movement: When joint moves, it also affects the ligaments and tendons that are fibers connecting the muscles and bones in the joint. If a tendon moves somewhat slightly out of place, it makes a snapping noise when it returns to its original position.

Similarly, ligaments can tighten when a joint is moved and can make a cracking sound. This will often occur in the ankle or knee.

What are the Risks Associated with Neck Manipulation?

Even if the professionals handle the neck cracking process, there can be several risks associated with neck manipulation. Often people visit therapists or chiropractors for a neck massage. The neck manipulation done by these practitioners is known as a chiropractic adjustment. Here the chiropractors use their hands to apply a sudden controlled force towards the spinal joint. This is done to improvise the spinal motion.

If done very cautiously and skilfully, then such chiropractic adjustments are not harmful. However, in rare cases, it might possess few risks. Some of the major risk factors of professional neck manipulation are :

  • Damage to the herniated disc or slipped disc is one of the major risks of neck manipulation. If the herniated disc compresses the nerves of the spinal cord, then the person might experience a feeling of pain and numbness in the affected area.
  • The nerves get compressed due to habitual neck cracking.
  • Neck manipulation may also cause dissection of the vertebral artery, which can lead to a certain type of stroke.

Can Neck Cracking Actually Lead to Stroke?

Neck cracking may lead to stroke, although it happens in rare cases. The speedy twisting of the neck causes a small dissection in the inner artery lining that causes the formation of blood clots. This may get dissolved without causing any harm or displaying any kind of symptom.

People with fragile and weak connective tissues, owing to genetic inheritance, are always recommended to avoid neck cracking, as this can lead to further complications. This damage of the inner artery lining causes a blockage in the downstream of the artery, thus increasing the tendency for stroke.

What are the Immediate Symptoms of a Neck Cracking Stroke?

If a person suffers from a stroke after neck cracking, then here are a few immediate symptoms that might be noticed:

Paralysis

Neck cracking stroke may cause one side of the person’s body to get paralyzed. This can be understood with the facial expression, as the person may not be able to open their mouth, have a lopsided smile  or may have their eyes get droopy.

A problem in lifting limbs

The person may experience issues in lifting their upper limbs. They might face difficulty in lifting one arm or both arms because of the stroke. The person can also experience numbness or weakness in their movement.

Unclear or garbled speech

With stroke, you can also notice the indistinct or slurred speech of the sufferer. The person might not be able to communicate with others properly.

Dizziness or loss of consciousness

A sudden stroke may cause the person to feel dizzy or fall into the stage of partial or temporary blindness. They may also suffer from loss of consciousness along with a blinding pain in the neck.

Confused if Neck Popping is “Risky or Relief” for You?

Habituated neck poppers may find relief, as they believe that the professionals do it  well.

Although it provides some relief, making it a habit is not a good practice. Most of the chiropractors and therapists suggest that neck popping is not that bad if done safely. But, if it is done multiple times in a day and that too regularly, then it may cause your neck to strain and ultimately lead to other rare complications.

Suggested Precautions and Possible Treatments for a Stroke due to Neck Popping

As they say, “prevention is better than cure”; keeping this in mind,  one should avoid regular neck popping—people who love to go for a neck snap, experience a kind of pleasure. Most of them believe that neck cracking helps in the release of endorphins which makes them feel lighter.

However, this should not become a habit, as popping your neck daily could permanently damage your neck ligaments and bones. A delay in the treatment of the patient suffering from stroke may lead to life-threatening consequences or even death.

Precaution is the only measure

Seeking professional care in case of complications is always recommended. For example, a chiropractor knows the position of your neck joints and can understand the amount of pressure that should be put, while cracking your neck. They can give you proper advice on how to take care of your neck at home,.

Request an appointment at Apollo Hospitals.

Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

Always remember, if there is a feeling of discomfort after a neck cracking session, then immediately consult your chiropractor or physician. They will diagnose the underlying issue and can help you to prevent any further damage to your neck joints.

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