Crack your own neck safely?!
Have you ever had a stiff, sore, achy neck and felt like you need to get to the chiropractors office but just don’t have the time? Well then you can try to mobilize your neck using a towel.
What is happening when a chiropractor cracks your neck?
When you go to the chiropractor for an adjustment what they do is they take your joint close to the end of its motion where a barrier is engaged. They then apply a very quick but small thrust through the joint. This helps the joint move and as an after effect this reduces pain and muscle tightness. The cracking sound is a release of gas from the joint. This release of gas from the joint, can be satisfying to some, but clinically has not been shown to be all that important. It’s the motion of the joint that is important not the releasing of the gas.
What can you do at home?
While a lot of people like to take their neck in their hands and quickly crank on it to get the popping/cracking sensation this probably is not the best thing to do. When you do this you risk potentially injuring the muscles of your neck. Instead it is much safer and likely more effective to use a towel to mobilize your neck.
Using a towel to mobilize your neck.
With this maneuver you may get a cracking sound, but you also may not. The cracking sound as we established is not all that important. What you want to do is to take a towel and fold it up so that it comfortably fits around your neck and in your hands. You then put the towel around the back of your neck. Take the hand which you are going to rotate towards and grab the opposite side of the towel. Then grab the other side of the towel with the other hand. Rotate your head towards the direction you want to mobilize it in, and then take your hand on that same side and bring the towel across your cheek. With the other hand apply a downward pull on the towel. Once you rotate your neck you will feel a point where you can not actively move your neck any further. At this point you will then use the hand in the direction that you are going too gently and slowly move the joint a little bit further. This should not cause pain but should cause a stretching sensation. You then let off some of the pressure and then do the same thing again. In an oscillatory manner you are going to take your neck to this end range and then back off. This will mobilize your neck in a very similar manner to a chiropractor’s manipulation. You can repeat going both ways.