What Does Neck Cracking & Grinding Mean?
The noise that may be heard during joint movements is called crepitus. Usually these sounds present themselves as a cracking, snapping, popping, or grinding. These sounds and sensations can occur in the neck as well. At some point in one's life most people have experienced some neck crepitus. Neck crepitus is usually painless and typically does not present as anything serious. If crepitus occurs with other troubling symptoms, such as pain or following trauma, it could indicate a more serious underlying medical condition.
The facet joints in the neck are where the back of the vertebrae join together. There is a smooth surface on each end of the bone called cartilage. Inside the facet joint is synovial fluid which lubricates this cartilage. Neck crepitus is thought to occur when structures in the spine rub together and force out air pockets, which creates sounds.
Likely causes of neck crepitus include:
- Articular pressure changes: Tiny gas bubbles can form an eventually collapse in these synovial joints and when the air is released it creates a popping or clicking noise.
- Ligament or tendon moving around the bone. Ligaments and tendons both attach to bone in some cases, it may be possible for a moving ligament or tendon to make a snapping sound as it moves over the edge of a bone. This can occur because muscles and tissues become too tight causing the ligament and tendon to shorten and compress.
- Bone grinding: As facet joints degenerate due to osteoarthritis, the protective cartilage wears down of the adjacent vertebral bones. The vertebral bones can start rubbing against each other which creates a grinding noise sensation. This grinding noise can also occur in disc degeneration where the cushioning between the vertebrae decreases, thereby causing more compression on the synovial joints.
When is neck crepitus serious? If neck cracking or grinding is accompanied by pain, stiffness, or other concerning symptoms it may indicate an underlying medical condition that needs to be checked by a qualified health professional.
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If you are someone who is suffering from these types of neck pain symptoms please contact our office today. No matter where you live in the Duluth area, we can help. Our clinic has been serving Kenwood, Hermantown, Duluth Heights, Kenwood Village, College of Scholastica, Woodland, Congdon, Lakeside, Lester Park & surrounding communities for years, and we would love to have you as the latest member of our little family. Please contact us today at (218)724-6008 to learn more.