Popping Your Neck May Lead to Stroke: How to Stretch Correctly

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Josh Hader, 28 in age, tore an artery and nearly lost his life when stretched and popped his neck, reported by Washington Post.


Natalie Kunicki, a 23-year-old paramedic, suffered a major stroke when stretched her neck, reported by Daily Mail.


Similar reports are not uncommon in the medical literature. Neck “popping” or “cracking” is a common phenomenon that occurs naturally with neck movements, just like you’ve probably experienced at some point in your life. Habitual neck poppers induce such cracking to relieve tension or to improve neck pain.


However, the sound your hear when popping your neck is not caused by bones or ligaments cracking as you might have imagined. Instead, it comes from a minor stretch leading to a temporary separation of the joint surfaces and the development of a gas bubble.


Popping your neck can cause a small tear called dissection in the inner lining of an artery, which leads to blood clots forming. The clots are usually too small to cause any symptoms, and will dissolve later.  



However, there is still a possibility that they fly off and lead to a blockage in an artery downstream, causing an ischemic stroke, which means your blood supply to part of the brain is cut off.


Why this is important


There are two vertebral arteries in your neck, forming the base of the arteries supplying blood to your brain. These two arteries are vulnerable to injury by rotation and bending of the neck, which is why neck is the favorite position for assassins. The arteries pass through bony canals in the side arms of the vertebrae and are stretched when the neck is turned.


Habitual neck popping can weaken the ligaments that hold together the joints between the vertebrae, allowing for more extensive neck movement and so leaving the arteries more vulnerable to injury.



Neck popping can cause strokes, especially when it is done regularly. But the possibility is not large by current knowledge. However, applying the right way to stretch your neck and provide relief is always better than improper “popping.”




5 steps to stretch your neck safely and effectively



First of all, keep your shoulders relaxed. Don’t let them tighten or hunch up.


1. Lower your chin to your chest as far as you can (don’t cause any pain). Hold for 20 seconds. Return to start, rest and repeat.


2. Turn your head to the right as far as you can. Keep your shoulders still while doing this. Hold for 20 seconds. Slowly bring your head all the way to the left. Hold for 20 seconds. Return to center, rest and repeat.


3. Tilt your head to bring your right ear to right shoulder. Don’t move your shoulder. Hold for 20 seconds before switching to the left side. Return to center, rest and repeat.



4. Turn your head to the right and look behind you. From this position, raise your chin towards the ceiling. Hold for 20 seconds before switch to the left. Then return and repeat.


5. Gently roll your head in a semi-circle. First, tilt your right ear down to your right shoulder, then drop your chin toward your chest, and tilt your left ear down to your left shoulder. Return to start and repeat the entire sequence up to 10 times.

12 Answers

These messages are for mutual support and information sharing only. Always consult your doctor before trying anything you read here.
I’ve had serious pain in my neck and shoulders. I was treated by a chiropractor and his physical therapist. I was also given neck exercises similar to the ones noted above plus additional ones. My neck pops a lot now which it never did before. This article really makes me concerned. Thank you for the information. As a result, I plan on doing the exercises more faithfully. Should I mention the neck popping to my cardiologist?
It's better to mention it to your cardiologist. He knows your specific condition and can probably make some adjustment to your therapy.
Mine cracks when I turn to right. I've got dizzy feeling sometimes, especially when I look at the ground occasionally.
What the fuck are you talking about only one man got stroke makes you all think having stroke is as easy as swallowing your breakfast with your morning coffee.
"Similar reports are not uncommon in the medical literature" - don't you see that?
Did the stretch. Felt good. Any stretch for shoulders and back like this?
Luckily I don't have neck pain.  But just for prevention, at what frequency should I do the stretch?
twice a day, morning and night. My personal experience is to stretch before going to sleep, you'll have a baby quality sleep.
The stretch is good! Can people with cervical spondylosis do it?
What you need is professional SPA.
If you are doing the type of work that makes your neck pop and hurt you aren't going to a SPA. Too busy working for that nonsense.
I work. I feel pain everywhere in my body. I can pass the whole day doing stretches.
Okay it's they same as popping your fingers and break it. These guys broke their necks while popping. But admittedly the popping sounds are unavoidable.
I was stretching my neck while reading the article believe it or not...
Everyone'd better start doing those stretches or you may want to find a doctor for help.