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Why is neck and spine cracking? How to prevent it? Is it misaligned? Need spinal adjustment?

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Neurologist
Practicing since : 2001
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I am a male 5'7, 33yrs old, and 170lbs. I have never had any kind of neck or back injury before. I sprained my neck about 3 months ago while lifting my wife on my shoulders. She weighs about 155lbs. She started swaying back and forth on my shoulders... which caused me to acquire a slight cervical strain. I've been going to orthopedic specialist and physical therapist to get it better; however I have not seen any improvement in over 11 weeks. I also had several XXXXXXX tissue massages that did not help either. Actually, my symptoms have gotten worse. My spine and neck crack more frequently, I tend to lose my balance very easily, one side of my body goes numb when I lay down at night, and I have consistent numbness and tingling in my feet and hands throughout the day.

My neck, back, and spine crack/pop between 8-10 times hourly such as... when I take a XXXXXXX breath; move my head, or even when I'm lying down. The spinal crepitus occurs even more when I am performing any type of activity. It almost feels like my vertebrae are out of place or something. My upper spine and lower back also go into slight spasms if I attempt to workout or lift weights. I have awoken with stiffness in the base of my neck, upper, middle, and lower back for the past eleven weeks. I never experienced that kind of stiffness or popping in my spine prior to my injury. I had a CT Scan and MRI three months ago, which both showed no signs of misalignment or herniated disks. However, my symptoms have intensified since then. My spine and neck crack more frequently, I tend to lose my balance very easily, one side of my body goes numb when I lay down at night, and I have consistent numbness and tingling in my feet and hands throughout the day. I believe that I may have spinal instability or spinal misalignment caused by extremely tight back muscles (just a guess).

Here are my questions:

1. Why are my neck and spine constantly cracking/popping and what can I do to prevent or improve my condition?

2. Could my spine be misaligned because my back muscles are in a spastic state?

3. Would it be beneficial for me to contact a Chiropractor regarding a spinal adjustment or are my symptoms related to muscle damage?
Posted Sat, 14 Apr 2012 in Brain and Spine
 
 
Answered by Dr. Shiva Kumar R 5 hours later
Hello.

Thanks for the query.

From the details provided, it looks to me like you are suffering from neck pain following an injury to the soft tissues of your neck (specifically ligaments, tendons, and muscles) caused by an abnormal motion applied to your neck which caused movement beyond the neck's normal range of motion. Severity of the symptoms vary from no symptoms to severe spinal cord symptoms.

In your case, it looks like a mild to moderate degree of injury to the soft tissues of the neck. CT and MRI reports does not indicate obvious soft tissue injury or fractures of the neck bones in you. Cracking/pop like sensations is due to movement of unstable joints of the neck. Spasm of the neck muscles is due to irritation of the spinal nerves exiting the cord.

So, I personally feel avoiding excessive neck strain for time being and then increased activity as tolerated in the following weeks would be ideal option in you. You may need pain medications, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, Range of motion exercises, physical therapy, and cervical traction to relieve your symptoms.

So I personally feel meeting a physical therapist or Chiropractor would be a good option to relieve your symptoms.

Let me know if I have missed out any other concern in your question.

Yet again, I duly appreciate your query to me, I do hope that you have found something useful to help you and I shall be glad to answer any further apprehensions.

Sincerely,

Dr Shiva Kumar R
Neurologist & Epileptologist
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
 
Follow-up: Why is neck and spine cracking? How to prevent it? Is it misaligned? Need spinal adjustment? 22 hours later
Thank you for your response. My follow up question is:

1. Would prolotherapy be alternative solution to help joint instability within my neck, upper back, and lower back?

2. Would prolotherapy be safe and effective even if I have "spasm of the neck muscles due to irritation of the spinal nerves exiting the cord."

Thank you. You have been a very big help. More than you will ever know
 
 
Answered by Dr. Shiva Kumar R 1 hour later
Hello,

Thanks for the query.

Regarding Prolotherapy and its effectiveness and safety, I have only heard of it and do not have any experience with this treatment. So I prefer you to talk to someone who knows more about this treatment.

Let me know if I have missed out any other concern in your question.

Yet again, I duly appreciate your query to me, I do hope that you have found something useful to help you and I shall be glad to answer any further apprehensions.

Sincerely,

Dr Shiva Kumar R
Neurologist & Epileptologist
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
 
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