Neck pain isn't typically a cause for alarm. One of the most common factors known to contribute to this form of pain is muscle strain. Holding your head in an awkward position can fatigue the muscles in your neck and eventually lead to strain, resulting in pain along this area of the body. However, experiencing pain with a crunching noise in the neck is often an indication of more than just muscle strain. This noise is likely caused by some level of degeneration within one or more of the disks in the cervical spine. Treatment usually involves modalities that can relieve the pain while helping to maintain the normal function of your neck, which often includes exercise.
Getting Medical Attention
Before engaging in any type of exercise to improve crunching neck pain, consult a doctor. Medical professionals should assess all associated symptoms before diagnosing the exact cause of your pain. Once the diagnosis is made, a physical therapist can help establish the most appropriate forms of exercise to reduce pain and maintain the range of motion in your neck.
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.
With your body in an upright position, tilt your head to the left, bringing your left ear toward your left shoulder. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds and release the stretch. Complete five repetitions before stretching the right side of your neck. To deepen the stretch, place your hand on the opposite side of your head and gently pull your head down.
Tilt your head to the left, bringing your left ear toward your left shoulder. Instead of holding this position, rotate your neck forward slightly and look at the floor. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds before releasing the stretch. Complete five repetitions before stretching the right side of your neck. To deepen the stretch, place your hand on the back of your head and gently pull down.
Tilt your head to the left again, bringing your left ear toward your left shoulder, but instead of holding this position, rotate your neck backward slightly and look toward the ceiling. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds before releasing the stretch. Complete five repetitions before stretching the right side of your neck.
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. One of the more common therapies involves isometric activities, which cause sustained muscle contractions.
Start off by placing your hand on your forehead. Press back with your palm as you lean your head forward. 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.
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. Keeping your hand on the right side of your head, press your palm to the left. Now try rotating your head to the right. Repeat on the other side of your neck.
Another form of exercise known to improve neck pain associated with degenerative conditions is aerobic exercise. Though it does nothing to improve the strength or flexibility of neck muscles, regular physical activity helps maintain your fitness level, which can indirectly relieve muscle strain. Stick with low-impact activities, such as swimming, water aerobics, walking or biking, since they don't jar the body like high-impact athletic pursuits.