Why does my neck crack when I turn my head?

Why Does My Neck Crack

Most people have probably asked themselves why their neck cracks when they turn their head. Often, the answer is that they’re experiencing the body’s natural response to neck joint movement.

This response is called crepitus by medical professionals, and it’s the popping, crackling, grinding or snapping sounds that you hear when you move your head and neck. Fortunately, you don’t typically have to worry about crepitus when you turn your head unless you’re also feeling pain. 

A physical therapist can help you learn why your neck is cracking when you turn your head. They can also assist you if you are feeling neck pain when your neck is cracking. 

Three common causes of neck cracking when you turn your head 

There are several factors that could be why your neck cracks when you turn your head. A few of the most common of these are: 

  1. Pressure changes in neck joints — The facet joints in your neck belong to a group called synovial joints. This means that they’re lubricated by synovial fluid. Tiny gas bubbles can form in this fluid, and they tend to burst when the joint is placed under more or less pressure. These pressure changes often happen when you move your neck or head into a different position. 
  1. Ligament or tendon movements — The ligaments and tendons in your neck are there for support, and they stretch and contract as you move. These movements can lead to crepitus when ligaments and tendons rub against each other or the bones in your neck. Often, crepitus from ligament or tendon movements is a sign that neck soft tissue is too tense. This symptom can also be a result of decreased soft tissue flexibility caused by aging. 
  1. Neck osteoarthritis — Osteoarthritis can occur in your neck when the cartilage and other structures in the neck wear out as you age. Eventually, this condition can cause bones to rub against each other when you move. The friction between these neck bones can lead to a grinding sound and sensation, and it often leads to neck pain. People who have pain combined with crepitus should seek help from a doctor or physical therapist. 

Whatcom PT can help you learn why your neck is cracking when you turn your head

Unsure why your neck cracks every time you turn your head? Our team at Whatcom Physical Therapy is eager to help you find out the answer, especially if you’re also feeling neck pain. We can determine the source of your crepitus by doing a free screening on your neck. 

Then, our physical therapists can create a unique program for you that’s designed to address the source of your crepitus and pain. We can even help you right in your home if you sign up for a virtual therapy appointment with our team. 

Contact our team today for more information about all the services we offer for neck problems or to schedule your initial appointment.