How to Exercise if You Experience Crunching Neck Pain

You should stretch your neck to help improve your flexibility.
Image Credit: Boyloso/iStock/GettyImages

A crunching sound in your neck can be alarming — particularly if you also have pain. But, these symptoms aren't always signs of a serious condition. Poor posture can lead to sore neck muscles and crunching commonly occurs when gas is released from your joints.


You can also hear your bones moving when you move your head, which can make it seem like you have a crunchy neck. However, neck pain can also be caused by muscle strain. Holding your head in an awkward position can fatigue the muscles in your neck and eventually lead to strain. Muscle strain can also occur during exercise or sports activities.

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Read more: 4 Exercises to Do When Your Neck Pain is Brutal


Seek Medical Attention

Experiencing pain with a crunching sound in the neck can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as disk degeneration or arthritis in the cervical spine — you might also have numbness or tingling in your arm.

Treatment usually involves physical therapy that can relieve the pain while helping to maintain the normal function of your neck, which often includes exercise.


If you have pain and crunching in your neck after a trauma, such as a fall or car accident, seek immediate medical attention. This could be a sign of a vertebral fracture or dislocation which can lead to paralysis or even death, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Although less common, these symptoms can also have other serious causes, as explained in a case study published in January 2017 by_ American Family Physician._ To prevent further injury, consult your doctor for an accurate diagnosis of the cause of your symptoms prior to exercise.


1. Stretching the Neck

Physical therapists often recommend stretching exercises to improve the flexibility of the muscles in your neck. The improved flexibility can help relieve pressure placed on the nerves in the neck contributing to the pain.

Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat three times.


  1. Sit up straight.
  2. Tilt your head to the left, bringing your left ear toward your left shoulder.
  3. Repeat on the opposite side
  4. Tilt your head to the left, bringing your left ear toward your left shoulder.
  5. Rotate your neck forward slightly and look at the floor.
  6. Repeat on the opposite side.
  7. Tilt your head to the left again, bringing your left ear toward your left shoulder.
  8. Rotate your neck backward slightly and look toward the ceiling.
  9. Repeat on the opposite side.


Read more: Exercises to Relieve Neck Muscle Spasms


2. Strengthening Neck Muscles

As soon as you've regained most of the mobility in your neck, physical therapists may begin incorporating strength-training activities into your therapy sessions.

By strengthening the muscles in the neck, you better support the cervical spine and help to relieve pressure. Begin with isometric exercises, with sustained muscle contractions, as recommended by the North American Spine Society.


Do not allow your neck to move during these exercises. Hold each position for three seconds and perform 10 repetitions in each position.

  1. Pace your hand on your forehead.
  2. Press back with your palm as you lean your head forward.
  3. Move your hand to the left side of your head and press your palm to the right while bringing your left ear toward your left shoulder.
  4. Move your hand to the right side of your head and press your palm to the left, bringing your right ear toward your right shoulder.
  5. Keeping your hand on the right side of your head, press your palm to the left.
  6. Rotate your head to the right against the resistance of your palm.
  7. Repeat on the other side of your neck.




Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.

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