My neck often feels like I have to crack or pop it to get back to normal. Is this a bad thing to do?
You may be describing a symptom of a problem called Clinical Cervical Spine Instability (CCSI). One or more spinal segments don't move in a smooth, coordinated manner. The need to snap or pop one or more joints is commonly reported with this condition.
It makes sense that if the snapping or popping is part of an abnormal condition it's best to address the underlying problem. A physical therapist can assess your motion. He or she
will also test for integrity of the joints and soft tissue structures.
Retraining the muscles around the joints and restoring normal neuromuscular control are
the goals. This can be done with a series of hands-on treatments. A home program of movement and exercises for postural control is also important.
Look for a therapist with special training in manual therapy. Various schools offer different models such as the McKenzie method, Upledger approach, or Cyriax mobilization. Other names you might hear include Kaltenborn, Paris, or Grimsby.
Some may have followed more of an osteopathic approach with training by Loren "Bear" Rex, Jim Jealous, or Frank Chapman.
Chad Cook, PT, PhD, MBA, OCS, COMT, et al. Identifiers Suggestive of Clinical Cervical Spine Instability: A Delphi Study of Physical Therapists. In Physical Therapy. September 2005. Viol. 85. No. 9. Pp. 895-906.