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.