Neck Pain

Is It Safe To Crack My Neck When I Have Neck Pain?

When we feel the beginning of that creak in our necks all we want is to crack it and go about our day. But what happens if you’re already suffering from neck pain? Is it safe to crack your neck without causing further pain or complications? Let’s take a few moments and dive deeper into why we crack our necks and what effect it can have on our necks.

Why Do We Crack Our Necks?

Our daily routine can be exhausting, leaving us tired and needing a rest at the end of the day. Whether the day’s activities involve moving loads or hunched over a computer or book for long periods of time, it is likely that some tension will develop in our neck muscles. This tension is a result of fatigue, and can be experienced in a range from slight discomfort to persistent pain. People tend to think an easy solution to this is to turn their neck in an irregular or abnormal way, until they hear a cracking sound.

What’s That Popping Sound?

  • Tendon movement – Tendons are stringy fiber strands which act as connective material around joints all over the body. They make the connection between muscle and bone, enabling movement. When they move out of place, (due to muscle movement for example) moving them back into place can create a snapping noise.
  • Ligament movement – Ligaments, like tendons, are connective fibers as well, and also enable movement, but connect bone to bone. The thin ligaments between the small bones in the neck also contribute to the cracking noise as they get moved, most notably when they have been tightened.
  • Escaping gas – The greatest reason behind the cracking sound is not even caused by bone or connective fibers moving but by escaping gas! There is a fluid that wraps all joints, and fills the spaces between them. It helps the joints move smoothly and prevents the bones from rubbing against each other. The fluid itself is mixed in with several gasses, and is often held inside capsules on the sides of the joints. When these capsules are stretched, the gasses are ‘released’ to fill up the spaces created by stretching, and this happens fast enough to produce the cracking sound.

What’s the Worst that Could Happen?

Although cracking the neck can sometimes bring instant relief, there are risks that come along with doing it too frequently, or in a wrong way. When done correctly with the help of a medical

professional it can have several benefits, however, cracking your neck repeatedly on your own can have negative effects.

Negative Effects

  • The ligaments become permanently stretched as a result of frequent stretching. This can lead to permanently having the neck bones misaligned.
  • Blood clots. The neck houses some of the most important blood pathways in the body, such as those that supply the brain with blood. Improperly cracking the neck can fracture some of these pathways and cause internal bleeding inside those pathways.
  • A stiff neck, caused by lack of mobility from damage to the tissues connecting to the spine.
  • Damage to the nerves. Like blood pathways, the neck also has very many nerve fibers. Improper cracking of the neck can cause them damage, possibly making it impossible to move the neck.

Positive Effects

  • Quick relief to discomfort and pain
  • Improved blood circulation by stimulating the muscles and fibers in the neck.
  • Improved posture from alignment of the neck bones and strengthening of the neck muscles.
  • Release of feel-good chemicals that improve one’s mood.
  • Improved flexibility from proper moderate stretching of neck muscles.

So Is It Safe?

Cracking your neck at home is already a risk, especially if you don’t know how to do it properly. If you’re experiencing neck pain and think cracking your neck is the answer, it’s best to wait and see your Physical Therapist first. There could be a variety of reasons why your neck hurts and the last thing you need is to further complicate your pain by trying to fix the issue yourself with no guidance.

As always, the best remedy to any problem is prevention. In order to avoid neck pain it is advisable to practice proper posture and avoid causing strain to the neck. Avoid carrying heavy bags over one shoulder, and sleep in comfortable positions that align the head, neck, and back. Also, frequent exercise and full-body stretches will go a long way in distributing and getting rid of muscular tension throughout the body.In case you’re experiencing consistent pain, or have a specific region in your neck where you feel a sharp pain when you turn your head, it’s best to reach out and schedule an appointment to see your Physical Therapist as soon as possible. At Progressive Edge Physical Therapy, we provide expert medical advice and premier physical therapy services. Call our offices today at 201-563-8418 to schedule an appointment!

Gardening – Managing Neck/Back/Shoulder Pain

Gardening is a rewarding hobby and a passion, but it has its costs. Don’t let pain prevent you from continuing to enjoy your hobbies. Physical therapy, a consistent exercise routine, and a plan for moderate gardening can help you to garden safely and avoid long-term complications like arthritis.

How Gardening Affects Your Body

Gardening involves many repetitive activities such as bending, kneeling, digging, reaching, and carrying plants and soil. Bending can cause neck pain, shoulder pain, and back pain, and kneeling for long periods can cause knee pain.

As you age, you might lose the ability to perform repetitive activities for long periods of time. While gardening is good exercise, overuse of muscles and stress on joints can lead to pain, stiffness, and long-term injury if gardeners do not keep in good physical shape and make sure to garden in a healthy way.

Pain From Gardening

If you experience pain after gardening, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and other over-the-counter pain relievers could help with gardening pain temporarily. However, these drugs may lose their effectiveness over time and cause side effects such as stomach upset. 

Rather than depending on pain relievers, consider your overall physical fitness plan and the way you garden to help your body heal and protect your joints and muscles from future damage. 

Tips for Managing Pain

Take Breaks When You Garden

In many cases, the pain gets worse when you overwork muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Since many gardening tasks require you to do the same activity repeatedly, stopping for a few minutes during a task can give your body time to recover. 

Muscles can become sore if they do not receive enough oxygen. Slowing down and breathing deeply can help your muscles recharge.

Stay Hydrated

Dehydration can make you susceptible to the effects of heat and can cause muscle pain and cramping. Bring plenty of water with you when you garden, and keep track of how much you drink while you are out there. When possible, work in the shade to minimize water loss through sweating.

Use Ice

If you have sore muscles, rest them and press an ice pack against them to reduce swelling. Icing your muscles for twenty minutes or so will make them feel better and give you a chance to recuperate.

Try a TENS Unit

A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator (TENS) unit relieves pain in sore muscles by making them contract. This promotes natural healing processes and reduces pain. Physical therapists often use TENS units for pain relief after therapy, and you can buy a home unit for personal use.

Physical Therapy

For more serious pain that does not respond to at-home therapies, physical therapy restores range of motion and helps muscles heal. Physical therapy exercises can target strains, tension, and repetitive motion injuries that result from gardening.

Tips for Avoiding Pain

Stretch Before You Garden

Following a stretching routine before you garden is one way to make your muscles more resilient and reduce the risk of injury. In physical therapy, your therapist might recommend specific stretches.

Vary Your Garden Routine

If you have many tasks to perform during each gardening session, switch from one to another frequently. Different gardening activities often rely on different muscles and muscle groups, so switching gives your muscles time to recover.


Regular cardiovascular exercise strengthens your muscles and provides support for your joints. Strong core muscles help you maintain good posture while you are gardening and reduce stress on your back, hips, and legs.

Stretch When You Finish Gardening

Take a few minutes to cool down with some light stretches after you finish gardening. Stretching helps make your muscles and joints more flexible and less prone to injury.

Check Your Food Intake

Your muscles need protein and complex carbohydrates to develop. Your bones and nervous system need calcium. Some foods promote pain and inflammation, while others reduce it. Proper nutrition equips your body to handle the challenges of gardening. 

Overcoming Pain With Physical Therapy from Progressive Edge Physical Therapy

It is natural to experience more aches and pains as you get older, but that does not mean that pain is unavoidable. With the right combination of the best physical therapy from Progressive Edge Physical Therapy, food intake, and exercise, you can continue to enjoy an active lifestyle, including gardening and other outdoor hobbies.If you have gardening pain that does not go away or is severe enough to interfere with your daily activities, call Progressive Edge Physical Therapy at 201-563-8418 to schedule your physical therapy session today!