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why does my neck pop when i turn my head

Most people at some point have heard cracking or grinding noises in their neck upon movement. These sounds, also called crepitus, are usually painless and typically do not represent anything serious. See Changes in synovial fluid pressure and moving ligaments and tendons can both cause neck cracking. See However, if the neck cracking noise is accompanied by pain, swelling, or some other concerning symptoms, then it may represent a problem that should be checked by a qualified health professional. See Crepitus, sometimes called crepitation or cavitation, refers to any type of noise or sensation such as a cracking, popping, snapping, or grinding sound that is heard during neck movement. For example, feeling a cracking sensation in the neck when turning the head to back up the car. See Crepitus can occur in any moveable joint in the body, and there are many moveable joints in the neck.

The neck joints are bathed in an oily-like substance call synovial fluid, which allows motion to freely occur in between the bones. See The underlying cause of crepitus in the neck is still not yet fully understood. Synovial joint fluid pressure changes Various studies have been performed purposely cracking the synovial joints of the fingers, but the conclusions in medical literature as to what is actually making the noise have been mixed. In particular, a study published in 1971 indicated that the cracking sound of a joint was caused by the bursting of a gaseous bubble in the jointвs synovial fluid. However, a study published in 2015 reported that the cracking sound was actually from the bubble being created. See Ligament or tendon moving around bone Another possible factor in neck cracking could be the snapping sound of ligaments and/or tendons as they move over bones or other muscles or tendons located in the neck region.

See Bone on bone grinding While an uncommon cause of neck cracking, itвs possible for bone to grind against bone if the cartilage has worn down. This condition is called osteoarthritis. It occurs gradually with the normal aging process, or it can be accelerated if there has been a traumatic injury such as
or a sports-related injury. See This type of crepitation is typically accompanied by pain, limited neck motion, and the cracking sound is usually repeated over and over with each movement. This experience is in contrast to the typical gas bubble formation crack, where it typically takes about 20 minutes before cavitation, or the cracking, can again occur. See Itвs a common occurrence: You twist or tilt your head to the side and your neck cracks. You may be wondering why your neck does that andвmore importantlyвis it something to be concerned about?

See Rest assured that, in most cases, neck-cracking is nothing to worry about. However, there are a few exceptions when popping or grinding in the neck may be a sign of a larger problem, so itвs worth learning about the signs of unhealthy neck cracking. See Any time a joint in the body creates a cracking, popping, or grinding sound or sensation, this is known as crepitus. Experts believe that crepitus is caused by gas bubbles in the synovial fluid of the joint either bursting or being formed. See Crepitus is considered harmless, and studies have not shown any evidence that it can cause joint damage or raise risk for arthritis. See A surefire sign that a neck crack is the result of crepitus is to repeat the movement that caused it and see if it occurs again. If not, the crack was probably crepitusвit takes about 20 minutes for the gas bubbles to reform.

There are a few instances in which neck cracking should be a cause for concern. See In addition to gas bubbles, popping or grinding in the neck can also be caused by dysfunction or damage in a cervical joint. This damage may be caused by an acute injury or by degeneration over years of wear and tear ( ). See Fortunately, there are signs to help indicate when neck cracking is more than benign crepitus: Cracking that repeats every time you move a certain way, or nearly every time Cracking that starts following an accident or surgery that affects the See If you experience any of these types of neck cracking, make an appointment with your doctor so your symptoms can be properly diagnosed. See Itвs good to err on the side of caution when youвre concerned. But keep in mind that most cases of neck cracking, when not accompanied by other symptoms, are harmless.

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