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Neck cracking and popping

Kris-NYKKris-NY Posts: 2,207
edited 05/13/2014 - 10:30 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Okay, I know this has been asked before, but I still can't seem to find a clear answer. When I move my neck forward, backward or around, I hear (in my ears at least) a crackling and popping noise that seems to come from the back of my head where it meets my neck.

I've tried searching and I see things like gas pockets, osteophytes rubbing, and muscles stretching. But nothing seems to be certain. And from what I can find no one gets a definite answer from their doc.

Any ideas?


  • Kris,

    You are a 100% correct this has come up so many times. There was a great article that Patricia posted awhile back on this issue. I like to say snack, crackle and pop have set up in my neck. One of my surgeons said it is not that big of a deal. The other surgeon said the popping comes from the back side of the spine indicating something posterior. Along with that they say it is common with posterior surgery. What I found interesting is it didn't show up till months later from posterior surgery. What you need to do is listen and see if sounds more like a knuckle cracking or like bone on bone. I have the c6-c7 level that needs surgery and that is bone on bone now popping. I am putting that surgery off due to some legal issues that I am trying to rid my life of. Of course the major thing is if you have pain associated with it, or you get any type of shocking when it happens. The reason I say that is you don't want to get into any instability issues. I would be curious though if you talk to your doctor and what answer they give, as it seems the answers are so broad on it. I should say you need to look for frequency to and if it is present only in the am or after working all day. That may help define what it is. This last go around it was more annoying than anything then it started it causing pain and back to the doctors I went.
  • Before my ACDF, I had a grinding noise in my neck all the time. Now, although I still have some grinding, I have tons of popping and crackling going on every time I move my head. But I'm talking top, bottom and sides. Just everywhere. Sometime when roll my head from left to right, I can hear a series of three big pops happen when I do it. I guess I'm just so used to it that I don't give it too much thought.

    If you get some answer from your doctor, please let us know what he says. I've never mentioned it to mine as I have no associated pain, but it can be so loud sometimes my hubby can hear it.

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  • I am very familiar with that awful sound. I never noticed it until after my surgery (anterior) on C5-C7 - disk replacement/fusion. It has worsened in the two years since surgery, but my neurosurgeon and my pain management doctor have assured me it is my arthritis that is causing the noise (and the continued pain that I am experiencing). I had a spinal cord stimulator implanted in November 2009 after a very successful trial, but unfortunately I have not had the relief I so hoped for.
    Anyway, it took a lot of words for me to tell you that they have told me that it is very natural to hear those sounds when one has an arthritic spine like mine. And I am convinced that the two surgeries have added to the complications of the arthritis.
    Best of luck to you.
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  • Thanks for your answers everyone. I asked my PT last week and he says it is either bone on bone or it can be the muscles popping over each other. Typical therapist!! He says the muscles spasms cause the muscles to tighten and as you move your head they are popping as they stretch over each other.

    I find that I am tired of "it could be" answers.
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  • Just seen the surgeon today, he said it is bone on bone the disc is gone and it's a stability issue for me. So I say anyone hearing those let your surgeon do the dx on it. Could be benign or could be something more serious.
  • I think there are alot of different reasons. Some serious some benign. Only a doctor can tell for sure.

    My original thought with this post is the fact that different health professionals will give you different answers.

    So as with everything here. If you suspect a problem see your doctor.
  • I've had 2 fusions, and too get a bit of the crunchy, crack and squish noises, but the louder noises (and I can feel it too) I get is around the C2/3 level which I haven't had surgery on yet. So no scar tissue to move, ligaments, muscles etc... My NS told me to update him *if* I experience pain...sigh... :-)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
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