11 Jul 2014

I click my own neck, what more can a Chiropractor do? – Self manipulating spine

Self manipulating neck - cracking neck

Lots of people click their own necks; sometimes for relief, sometimes for dramatic effect, sometime just because they can, often without trying to.  But what is the difference between clicking it yourself and a Chiropractor doing it?

The need to click one’s own neck is potentially a sign of an underlying problem.  Often the need to do it is down to poor posture putting excess stress on the joints in the cervical (neck) spine.  Due to the stresses on the spine, the joints become restricted and uncomfortable.  If an on-going problem, it may get to the stage of a trapped nerve!  When you click your own neck (self manipulating) you are mostly ‘clicking’ either the joint above or below the restricted one that needs to move properly.  Chiropractors train over 4-5 years to adjust the right joint in the right way (see picture below).  This relieves the restricted joint and frees up any trapped nerves.

Is there anything wrong with clicking my own neck?

The danger of doing it yourself is you’re clicking the wrong joints.  When you self manipulate it may make the same ‘popping’ noise (air being released from the joint) as a Chiropractic adjustment; it might provide some relief, due to the natural release of a pain-relieving chemical called endorphins.  But it can cause damage.

When a joint is restricted, the joints above and below work harder to compensate for the lack of movement in the stiff joint.  So these joints are moving too much already and when you self adjust you are forcing them to move even further (see picture).  This can, over time, cause stretching of the ligaments that support the spine and lead to instability and future problems.

Self adjusting neck - clicking

So what should I do if I always click my own neck?

From what we’ve learnt so far, you potentially have an underlying problem and are causing damage to the ligaments of your spine.  The first thing is to look at your posture to prevent unnecessary stress on your neck and shoulders.  The next thing is to have a full examination with a Chiropractor to assess the movement and function of the individual joints of the spine.  The Chiropractor will then be able to recommend stretches, postural advice, and, if necessary, a course of a Chiropractic adjustments to restore the correct movement to the spine.

Written by Bristol Chiropractor – Charles Herbert


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  • Derek Ng says:

    Great article – I love how short and simple you were able to explain why it’s bad to self adjust. The drawing does a great job of summarizing it all!

    From one chiropractor to another – keep up the good work!

    Dr. Derek Ng
    Markham Chiropractic +Rehab
    5293 Highway 7, Suite 204
    Markham, ON L3P 7M7

  • khosi says:

    I’m impressed always new something wasn’t gud bout self adjusting so lesson learnt

  • Neil J Rabin says:

    Great article with importany information that the public should understand.

    I would, however, reserve the word “adjustment” for the spinal corrections that Chiropractors effect. If an individual “cracks” his own spine that is NOT a self adjustment. That just confuses the issue again. The point here is that ONLY a Chiropractor can adjust the spine. Any spinal procedure that is initiated by yourself or someone else for the sole purpose of “clicking or
    cracking” should be termed a manipulation.

  • DawndifutureDC says:

    Is there some research based articles that show the biomechanics behind self-adjusting? I would like to have this support/evidence to turn to when trying to explain to others the faults of this. Thank you!

  • Charles Herbert says:

    Thank you for your comment. I have made the necessary tweaks.
    In all honesty I wrote this blog in half an hour not expecting it to go viral. I appreciate everyone enjoying and sharing it.

  • Charles Herbert says:

    I’m not aware of any research other than this attached. The main emphasis is not that it’s specifically bad, it’s that the need to self manipulate suggests an underlying sublation that takes the Chiropractic adjustment to resolve.


  • Amanda O'Leary says:

    I have been asking this question for YEARS, finally an answer more than just, “you can mis-align your spine.” I know I’m out of alignment. Simple, great explanation, and a picture is worth a thousand words.

  • Charles Herbert says:

    Thank you.

  • Beatrice says:

    Great informative article. My husband looks like the third picture (the 42lb one) and he has too much flexibility in the spine. What could help him, readjusting the spine? Thanks again about excellent explanation about self clicking!

  • Lou Bashall says:

    It may also suggest the early stages of an underlying movement disorder. have a look at the underlying associated functional neurology relating to the basal ganglia and mesencephalon as a starter.

  • Cheri Neumayer says:

    I love the drawing, I’m going to use it for our patients if you don’t mind.


    James C. Neumayer, D.C.
    Presque Isle, ME 04769

  • Jon says:

    I’ve been cracking my own neck for over 10 years every half hour. It’s so routine and painful if I don’t I’d basically have to live at the chiropractors. Maybe there’s a chance I can get some training by now…even though it’s probably too late.

  • Ronnse says:

    Fantastic information material. Just what I was looking around for!
    All the best

  • Lisa says:

    In my very pro-chiropractic family, we call self adjusting “Chirobation”

  • Merri Tnr says:

    Yes sir, Dr. Neil! My first chiropractor taught me that… 😉

  • Charlie says:

    I always wondered what was happening when I crack my neck – I do it all the time!

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