This is something I get asked quite often, and generally speaking cracking your own neck is likely not causing any damage to the joints or the surrounding muscles. However; the issue is you shouldn’t actually feel pain or tension resulting in the urge to regularly twist, rotate and stretch your neck and get the associated audible popping or cracking sound for relief.
A result of the joint cracking is a signal being sent to the spinal cord where pain is processed and inhibits pain there. However, its usually the muscles which are tight, this restricts blood flow causing lactic acid to develop, which then stimulates the free nerve endings in the muscles (pain fibers outside of spinal cord). The joint cracking produces a sudden but usually short term pain relief at level of spine where it is processed but not originating from, the originating pain from the muscles overrides it and the urge to crack returns as pain is continuously been sent from the muscles, it becomes a painful and frustrating cycle of cracking, short term relief, cracking etc…. The neck pain suffer’s who feel the urge to regularly crack their own neck will greatly relate to this cycle.
The type of tightness is usually a result of long term stress and long term restriction in blood supply. There is what I can only describe by feel as gristle that develops in the tissues and by physically reducing the gristle with techniques I have refined over the years working at specific directions across the ‘grain’ of the muscle fibers (see diagram above) and returning proper blood supply not only does the feeling of needing to crack their own neck but also neck pain in general and associated headaches can be relieved quite quickly despite it being a chronic condition and that many other therapies have been able to provide relief for. I have also developed a technique or “homework” so pain suffer’s can effectively treat their own muscles.