There are many proposed causes of cracking or clicking noises in the neck. The most common causes are tendons and ligaments flicking over the knobbly protuberances of the vertebrae as you move, especially when the muscles are tense. Another cause is change in pressure on the joints can create and release gas within the fluid that lubricates your joints. Both these causes of sounds in the neck are normal events and not a problem, unless there is associated pain. If there is a pain when your neck cracks, it may indicate muscle tension or stiff joints are preventing your neck from moving freely and a segment may be stuck. Another possible cause is excessive degeneration of cartilage and/or discs leading to increased bony contact between the vertebrae and a grinding or grating sound with movement. This is called osteoarthritis which is diagnosed with an X-Ray and may occur from trauma or repeated overuse and poor posture.
Physiotherapy management revolves around assessing the contributing factors to decrease the load on the worn out joints, while increasing the ease of movement. Treatment may include manual mobilisation of the stiff joint while lengthening and strengthening the muscles around it to reduce bony contact, pain and excessive joint noises. It is important for clients with arthritic joints to find the right balance between establishing a position of ease while training your neck to move well from this stable base to keep the joint lubricated like a spray of WD40.
Author: Karri Field