Does your neck grind when you move it? Maybe sometimes it will click or pop when you turn your head?
Does this mean you have a neck problem?
One of the most common questions I get in practice is “what does it mean when I turn my neck and I get a grinding, clicking, or popping sound?”
There are a few main things that cause your sounds in your neck:
Ligaments or tendons – sometimes these tissues will tighten, they can get inflamed and when you move and stretch them, they will sometimes click or move over a tubercle on a bone, which is just a small little outcropping on a bone, and sometimes they will make a noise when that happens.
Joint capsules – another thing that can cause clicking or popping in your neck are the joint capsule themselves. At the back of the spine, there are two facets joints at each segment. They sometimes will release gas. If they are moved too much or too little, they will release gas, making a popping sound.
Arthritic joints – sometimes the joints in the neck will have deteriorated or become arthritic. That means the joint surfaces are not smooth anymore. So sometimes those sounds will be coming from a damaged joint. And finally, in clinical practice, one of the common causes I see that can cause clicking, popping, or grinding is when the neck alignment is not in proper position or some of the joints are not moving properly.
Spinal alignment or joint fixations – if there are joints that aren’t moving properly or if they’re out of alignment, then some joints above or below will move too much to compensate for the joints that aren’t moving enough. When this happens, there’s gas formed in the joints and they release a popping or a clicking sound.
When Should You Be Concerned?
So, when should you seek professional help? There are a few times we need to further investigate why your neck is making sounds:
If you move your neck and it is associated with any type of pain or stiffness, or it sends tingling down your arm into your hand, that could suggest the noises in your neck are a concern and need to be addressed.
Another time you want to be concerned about the grinding, popping, or clicking your neck is if when you move your neck, there is dizziness associated with it. This could be caused by something called cervicogenic dizziness or cervical vertigo, and this should be investigated.
Finally, another time you should be concerned about the noises coming from your neck is if you have a severely reduced range of motion or your neck ‘locks up’. That is another time that you should seek professional help to determine the cause of your neck problem.
What Can You Do at Home to Help?
There are 3 stretches that you can do in the comfort of your home to help eliminate or reduce the sounds coming from your neck. Watch this video for my 3 favourite stretches:
If you do them once or twice, you are not going to notice a big difference, but if you can commit to twice a day for a period of weeks, I know you will notice a change. Not only will you notice a change in the sounds coming from your neck, but you’ll notice a change in your range of motion. Range of motion for a joint is life for a joint. You’ll feel better. You will function better, and you will move better.