What is cervical crepitus?

neck crepitus Cracking, popping, and grinding sounds all over your neck. They can be caused by tightness and stiffness, poor posture, or arthritis.

Neck crepitus is usually not a cause for concern. But chronic, repetitive, or painful cracking can point to a more serious problem.

This article will tell you what crepitus is, what causes neck crepitus, when to see a healthcare provider, and how to diagnose and treat it.

What is Crepitus?

Crepitus crackles, pops and rubs in your joints. You may hear and feel it as you move.

The grinding sound and sensation is often associated with stiff joints with cartilage damage.

The cartilage in your joints helps your bones slide smoothly between each other. But cartilage can be damaged or worn away. Then, the bones rub against each other. Pops and pops are usually the result of air bubbles. They form in voids within joints.it’s called cavitation. People usually think that the sound comes from the popping of bubbles. Research published in 2015 suggested that it may actually come from the formation of bubbles.

When you suddenly force the joint to move in a certain way, the different parts of it briefly separate. This opens the cavity where air bubbles can form.

Either way, you’ll hear pops from the quick action. This may refer to a broken joint or bending or twisting of the neck.

Once you pop a joint, it won’t pop again until the pressure has time to build up. This usually takes about 20 minutes.

Crepitus in joints and lungs


Joint wear can be due to cartilage wear. This causes the bones to rub against each other as you move.

Popping and cracking are related to the formation of air bubbles in small cavities within the joint.

Causes of Neck Crepitus

Neck crepitus is accompanied by joint damage, stiffness, or arthritis of the cervical (cervical) vertebrae. arthritis of the neck (cervical spondylosis) from cartilage that degenerates over time.

The loss of cartilage means that the cervical vertebrae cannot slide smoothly over each other. So when you move, it causes grinding.

Stiff neck can also be due to injury. Car accidents and whiplash are common causes, but anything that causes neck trauma can lead to inflammation and tight muscles and connective tissue.

When to get medical help

Excessive cracking, popping, or grinding of the neck may indicate a serious problem. This includes instability of the cervical spine.

Consult a healthcare provider if you have:

  • My neck cracks every time I move
  • significant pain or swelling
  • Recent neck injury

Joint voids and cracks are more likely to occur in joints where the surrounding tissue is more resistant. These organizations include:

  • Cervical paraspinal muscles: The vertebrae that run from the base of the skull to the upper back. They form a “V” shape.
  • Ligaments: Tissues that connect and stabilize bones to each other
  • Fascia: A thin, body-covering network of connective tissue that holds your organs, bones, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels in place

Poor posture can also cause neck stiffness. This can restrict movement and cause neck crepitus.


Neck crepitus is caused by joint damage or arthritis of the neck joints. More common in joints with high soft tissue resistance. Poor posture is also a cause.


Your regular healthcare provider, orthopedist, physical therapist, or chiropractor may diagnose neck crepitus and its causes.

The diagnosis of cervical crepitus is based on:

  • symptom
  • physical examination
  • Sometimes, imaging studies

Your healthcare provider will listen for neck crepitus with certain movements. They will ask you to do some of these moves.

They may order imaging if your neck crepitus is chronic, repetitive, or painful. These may include X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

They are looking for:

  • cartilage wear
  • fracture
  • herniated or herniated disc
  • ligament injury

Causes and Treatment of Neck Pain


Neck crepitus usually results from a stiff neck. Therefore, treatment is usually aimed at restoring the range of motion and range of motion of the cervical spine.

Initial treatment is usually:

  • Heat: A warm compress can relieve tension.
  • Stretching exercises: These relieve the trapezius and levator scapulae muscle.
  • Strengthening: Exercises that make the deep neck muscles stronger can provide support for your neck joints.
  • Improve Posture: Especially when you’re standing with your head forward and your upper back and shoulders rounded.

If you have noticeable tightness, a physical therapist may be able to help. They can help you make things better.

In rare cases of cervical instability, spinal fusion surgery is an option.

Can a cold or flu cause neck pain?


Neck crepitus comes from worn cartilage or air bubbles in small cavities in the joint. Poor posture, injury, or arthritis can also cause this condition.

Diagnosis is based on symptoms, physical examination, and sometimes imaging studies. Treatment includes heat packs, stretching and strengthening, and improving posture. Surgery may be required in rare cases.

VigorTip words

If your neck crepitus is not painful, it may be easy to ignore it. Still, it’s best to see your healthcare provider.

There may be something going on in your joints that will get worse over time. Getting a quick diagnosis and proper treatment can prevent this from happening.