Creaking neck: causes and symptoms of cracking neck
- Cause of creaking neck
- Changes in synovial fluid or synovial fluid
- Ligament or tendon movements
- Bone that grinds against each other
- Cracking neck due to osteoarthritis
- Disease in the cervial spine
- Symptoms in the neck
- Call in a doctor
- Examination and diagnosis
- Case history and physical examination
- Visual art investigation
- Treatment of a creaking neck
- No treatment
Creaking neck / Source: InesBazdar / Shutterstock.com
Cause of creaking neckMy neck creaks, kinks or nods when I turn my head; what can that grind of my neck mean? And are creaky cervical vertebrae dangerous?
There can be numerous causes for a creaking neck or a grinding noise from the neck. A cracking neck can be caused by the following factors:
Changes in synovial fluid or synovial fluidThe lubricating joint fluid is a viscous, clear fluid that is located in joint cavities. This fluid between the joints lubricates the movement, and as the pressure in this fluid changes, it forms gaseous bubbles. The emergence of these bubbles gives a cracking or popping sound, research shows
Ligament or tendon movementsWhen the tendons and ligaments pass over the bone, they can make a clicking noise that is heard when your joints move. This is a harmless phenomenon. The sound comes from the cervical vertebrae and is often produced by one of the small (facet) joints, which facilitate the mobility between the vertebral bodies. This may indicate the onset of osteoarthritis in one of those joints. With osteoarthritis the cartilage changes with complaints such as stiffness and joint pain.
Bone that grinds against each otherIf the cartilage in the joints has deteriorated sharply in quality, the grinding or cracking noise that you hear may be the result of the bones that grind against each other. This condition is called osteoarthritis. It is part of the normal aging process, or it can be accelerated if there is a traumatic injury, such as a whiplash or a sports-related injury.
Cracking neck due to osteoarthritisIf you occasionally hear a popping sound in the neck, then it is not a cause for concern because it is a natural phenomenon. Everyone experiences a crackling sound in the neck. Sporadically a creaking neck does not pose a threat to the joints. But if you regularly suffer from a big crackling noise in your neck, then there is often more going on. The most common cause of a creaking neck or grinding noise of the neck is osteoarthritis in the neck, also called "cervical osteoarthritis", whereby the quality of the cartilage at the bones and joints in the neck are less good. It mainly occurs in people 50 years and older. A creaking neck can be accompanied by other complaints, such as having pain and limitation of movement of the neck. The neck also sometimes becomes stiff (stiff neck).
Disease in the cervial spineIn the event that you experience weakness or other neurological symptoms in the upper limbs, this may indicate a cervical spine disorder, such as Bechterew's disease.
Symptoms in the neckIn the case of osteoarthritis, a creaking neck is usually accompanied by symptoms such as pain when moving the neck, neck stiffness and a limited range of movement of the neck. Many people who suffer from neck osteoarthritis also suffer from dizziness. Normally a creaking neck is not so audible and only you can perceive it. This sound can only be heard when the neck is moving. Some of the other symptoms you may experience are headache, weakness with numbness of the upper limbs. You can also suffer from sleeping problems, which leads to a lack of sleep and excessive fatigue. Stiffness in the neck and cracking of the neck can also indicate Lyme disease.
Call in a doctor with a creaking neck / Source: Istock.com/monkeybusinessimages
Call in a doctorIf a creaking neck is accompanied by one of the following symptoms, it is wise to consult your doctor as it may indicate a more serious problem.
- Pain and / or swelling. This may indicate the presence of an inflammation or osteoarthritis.
- Recent trauma. If the creaking sound occurs after a recent trauma or injury, it can cause damage to the structure of your neck.
- Frequent or constant. If the crackling sound and the grinding sound can be reproduced over and over again every time you move your head or neck, it may indicate an underlying problem.
- Recent operation. After an operation of the cervical spine, a creaking neck may occur weeks later. Although these new sounds mean nothing serious, it is important to inform your surgeon so that they can assess your symptoms.
Examination and diagnosis
Case history and physical examinationYour doctor will ask questions about your symptoms (history), take your medical history into account and do a physical examination. He will check your neck and shoulders for sensitivity, numbness and muscle weakness, and see how far you can move your head forward, backward and from left to right.
Visual art investigationThe doctor can have imaging tests performed to get a better picture of the cause of the creaking noises in your neck. This may include the following investigations:
- X-ray examination. Osteoarthritis or fractures can be detected with an X-ray.
- CT-scan. The imaging of the spine at the height of the neck.MRI scan / Source: Istock.com/© james steidl
- MRI scan. MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to create detailed images of bones and soft tissues, including the spinal cord and nerves coming from the spinal cord.
- EMG research (electromyography). This research provides insight into the functioning of the nerves and muscles.
Treatment of a creaking neckTreatment of a creaking neck depends on the cause. Occasionally a creaking neck is no problem. Persistent complaints may indicate an underlying condition that requires treatment.
No treatmentIf a creaking neck is caused by vigorous movement of the neck while lifting something on it or as a result of sudden neck movement, there is no cause for concern and no treatment is needed.
ArtoseIf the creaking noise in the neck or the grinding noise of the neck is caused by osteoarthritis, it may be advisable to wear a neck brace, limiting movements and giving the neck extra support and rest. In addition, it is important to keep the neck moving by doing regular (muscle-strengthening) exercises.
PhysiotherapyWith pain and tension in the neck and shoulder muscles with cracking noises in the neck, a gentle neck massage may be recommended, as well as neck exercises (with the physiotherapist) to relieve the symptoms.
ComplicationsThe repeated cracking of all synovial joints (the joints that can move) does not increase the risk of osteoarthritis. However, it can cause other complications. In rare cases, manipulation of the cervical spine can lead to vertebral artery dissection (the rupture of the wall of a vessel that carries blood to the brain) which can result in a stroke.
- Kawchuk GN, Fryer J, Jaremko JL, Zeng H, Rowe L, Thompson R. Real-Time Visualization of Joint Cavitation. PLoS ONE. 2015; 10 (4): 0119470. doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0119470