Why Does My Neck Crack When I Turn My Head
Why Does My Neck Crack When I Turn My Head? If you’ve ever had your arm fall asleep while holding something heavy in that hand, then you may have experienced “shooting pains.” Shooting pain is an excruciatingly sharp stabbing sensation felt when nerve roots are compressed or irritated. This pain is caused by inflammation or irritation of the nerves at their exit from the spinal cord. It typically radiates down the arm toward the fingers and thumb (from the shoulder) and up into the upper back (from the lower cervical spine).
Shooting pain feels very similar to how it would feel if someone was drilling into your arm with a screwdriver. You’d be able to tell where they were if you could see what’s going on inside your elbow or forearm. A shooting pain occurs because there is some sort of problem with the way the bones of the joints are aligned. In this case, the bone of the cervical vertebrae has been misaligned. The result is pressure being placed upon the nerves exiting through the joint. That means the nerves are not getting enough room to travel out of the bone without running into a problem.
The same thing happens in the neck. The bones of the cervical spine need to be properly aligned so that the nerves coming off them can get out safely. When these bones become misaligned, the nerves end up rubbing against each other. If they don’t have enough space for proper movement, the result is shooting pain.
As an example, let’s say you turn your head to look left and right. Your eyes should be looking straight ahead, but instead, they’re turned slightly to the side. What’s happening is that the bones of your cervical spine have shifted forward toward your chest. This causes the nerves that run along the front of your neck to pull across the facet joint between C5-6. Now imagine that the bones of that joint are sliding across each other like two pieces of ice cream as they melt. The nerves are trying to pull apart the bones of the joint, which only makes things worse.
This type of misalignment usually develops after surgery or trauma. Sometimes it can develop due to degenerative diseases such as arthritis. Regardless of why it developed, most people will experience shooting pain eventually.
Many times the pain is alleviated by wearing a hard collar to keep everything still. However, sometimes patients report that even though the pain decreases, the pain never goes completely away. Why does this happen?
First of all, remember how I said the bones of the cervical spine needed to be properly aligned so that the nerves could leave them safely? Well, if those bones aren’t properly aligned, the nerves won’t be able to do their job properly. They’ll be stuck in constant contact with bones that are touching. To make matters worse, the nerves themselves are made up mostly of fat and protein. When the nerves are trapped in a confined area, like a small hole, it compromises the flow of nutrients to those parts of the body. The lack of nutrients leads to swelling. Swelling increases the size of the bones affected by the injury. And increased size doesn’t allow the bones to touch as much. So you have more space between the bones.
In addition, the discs that separate the bones of the spine also play an important role in protecting the nerves. These discs act as shock absorbers, helping to protect the delicate nerves traveling through the intervertebral disc space. Think about putting a ball under a door hinge. Without a hinge, the ball would simply roll around wherever it wants to go. But with a hinge, you can open the door gently without having to worry about dropping the ball. The same concept applies here. The discs help to distribute pressure evenly throughout the spine. With a loss of function or strength in the discs, the risk of damage to the nerves becomes greater.
What else might cause the symptoms described above? Let’s discuss what happens when you tilt your head too far forward or backward. We know what happens during normal movements of your head and neck, but what happens when the range of motion is exaggerated?
The first place to check is whether or not the muscles of the neck are tight. Tight muscles put excessive stress on the joints and increase the chances of problems developing. For instance, if you hold your head in a fixed position for long periods of time, the muscles surrounding the joints will begin to tighten up. Muscle tightening tends to occur in response to repetitive motions – especially ones that create tension.
Another factor is called muscle imbalance. Muscles work together to balance forces applied to the head and neck. If one group of muscles gets weaker than its partner, the imbalanced muscles can lead to abnormal stresses on the spine. The result is an abnormal alignment of the bones of the spine. Weak muscles also tend to lose flexibility and mobility. Both factors contribute to the development of abnormal strains on the spine.
Finally, consider the effects of posture. Postural abnormalities can affect the health of the spine. One common abnormality is lordosis, a condition in which the pelvis tilts forward excessively relative to the thorax. Another potential contributor is scoliosis, a twisting deformity of the spine that affects millions of Americans. Scoliosis results in uneven distribution of weight along the spine. The result is additional strain on the neck. Other possible postural contributors include hyperkyphotic (backward curved) and kyphoscoliosis (backward and twisted) curves.
Posture plays an important role in maintaining good health. Proper posture helps ensure that the body is balanced, the organs remain in optimum positions, and the muscles are working correctly. Poor posture can lead to pain syndromes, fatigue, headaches, poor sleep quality, and more.
So now you understand what happens with your neck when you turn your head. Next, learn what signs and symptoms to watch out for in order to determine whether your pain is related to a subluxated or dislocated cervical disk.
Signs & Symptoms Of A Subluxated Or Dislocated Disc
Subluxations and dislocations are essentially different terms used to describe the same process. While both involve a change in position of the vertebrae (bones), the term subluxation refers to a partial dislocation. A subluxation involves only one side of the joint, whereas a complete dislocation involves both sides.
A subluxation is defined as a partial protrusion of one or more vertebrae beyond the articular surface of the adjacent vertebra. This is thought to be caused by a tear in the annulus fibrosus, the tough outer layer of the intervertebral disc.
With a full dislocation, one or more vertebrae can actually fall out of the socket formed by the cranial and caudal processes of the neighboring vertebrae. This is known as luxation. Luxation is characterized by an anterior shift of the vertebrae towards the opposite side of the joint.
While subluxations and dislocations are considered chronic conditions, acute injuries involving sudden acceleration or deceleration of the head and neck are also reported. Such injuries are commonly seen in sports activities and car accidents. Acute injuries are generally treated surgically, whereas chronic cases are managed noninvasively using physical therapy and medications.
To find out how physical therapy can help treat your specific situation, continue reading.
Neck Pain Treatments
There are many treatment options available for neck pain. Chiropractic care is one option. Chiropractors offer a variety of treatments for neck pain, including manual techniques, acupuncture, massage, spinal decompression, manipulation, and exercise programs. The goal of chiropractic treatment is to restore normal functioning of the nervous system and reduce overall discomfort levels.
Osteopathic physicians use various methods to evaluate and treat patients suffering from neck pain. Osteopaths employ a wide spectrum of methods to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal disorders. Some osteopaths utilize spinal adjustment, traction, ultrasound therapy, electrical stimulation, and heat therapy. Others rely primarily on active listening skills and observation. Osteopaths seek to correct underlying structural issues while relieving local pain and improving overall well-being.
Therapeutic exercises are another popular method for treating neck pain. Typically, therapeutic exercises require the patient to perform certain stretches and movements designed to improve circulation and increase flexibility. Exercises are performed under the supervision of a trained instructor who monitors the progress of the patient. Therapists often prescribe stretching prior to the actual exercise routine, allowing the individual to warm up before moving onto the stretching part of the session.
For severe cases of neck pain, surgical intervention is necessary. Certain types of fractures and tumors must be reduced immediately to prevent further complications. Surgery is also required for individuals suffering from diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, tuberculosis, cancer, and infection. Surgeons remove disks that bulge significantly or herniate, thereby reducing the amount of fluid in the disc space.
Surgery is also employed to repair ligaments, muscles, and connective tissues damaged by trauma. Arthroplasty is performed on hips, knees, elbows, and shoulders to replace worn-out cartilage and/or bones. Joint replacement surgeries are performed to alleviate pain and maintain functionality.
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