Yes, cracking your neck could cause a stroke, but it’s very rare

The dangers of cracking your neck could include a vertebral artery dissection and stroke, but it’s very rare.

For many people, cracking their neck is a daily habit,  just like cracking your back or your knuckles

But a recent viral tweet suggested a woman suffered from stroke symptoms after getting her neck adjusted at the chiropractor. People online were also asking if you can have a stroke from cracking your neck. 


Can cracking your neck cause a stroke?



This is true.

Yes, cracking your neck rapidly could cause a stroke, but it’s very rare.  


When you crack your neck, the facet joints in the back of the neck stretch, which lets fluid spread out into the joints. That creates gas bubbles, which pop and make the neck cracking feel like it’s releasing pressure, Veritas Health explains. It’s a similar sound and feeling as cracking your knuckles.

When you crack your neck, the rapid movement could tear the blood vessels that run up the back of your neck, Paul Lleva, MD, a neurologist with the Yale School of Medicine, told VERIFY. This type of tear is known as a vertebral artery dissection (VAD).

The vertebral arteries run through the spinal column in the neck, providing blood to the brain and spine. If the vessel is torn, a clot can form within the damaged vessel, which in very rare occasions could lead to a stroke, Lleva said. He estimated only 2% of strokes are caused by a VAD-induced clot.

According to a 2011 study published by the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine , only 1 to 1.5 per 100,000 people in the U.S. experience a stroke caused by a VAD.

But it’s not just the cracking of the neck that leads to a VAD or clot. Lleva told VERIFY any rapid movement of the head – including sneezing, coughing or shoveling snow – could result in this type of injury.

According to SpineOne, a Denver-based chiropractor, “the day-to-day neck cracking you experience is probably safe.” There is a risk if you try to give yourself an adjustment by pulling or twisting your head with your hands. 

Lleva said if you are experiencing neck pain, you should see a doctor before trying to self-manipulate the joints in your neck. 

If you do think you’re suffering from a stroke, consult a doctor. The acronym F.A.S.T. is often used to remember warning signs of a stroke.

  • F = Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person's smile uneven?
  • A = Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • S = Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred?
  • T = Time to call 911

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