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Popping and cracking in sternum & neck?

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Old 01-11-2004, 11:13 PM   #1
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Question Popping and cracking in sternum & neck?

I'd like to know if anyone else has these symptoms and what they do about them. For the past 3 years or so I've experienced popping and cracking in my neck, sternum, and back. Usually it will hurt or feel tight in my back by my shoulderblades and spine so I'll stretch and put my arms above my head then my sternum will pop quite loudly (scares people) in one pop or more and I'll feel better momentarily then the tightness will come back. Sometimes the tightness is in the front and I have to stretch and crack the front. I have constant pain behind my shoulderblades and it radiates down my arms and into my neck and keeps me awake at night. I have an office job and I'm very tense but this is making me miserable. My neck cracks several times a day without my even trying to crack it. This snap, crackle, and popping happens constantly throughout the day with the pain (literally about every half hour). At it's worst the shoulder pain radiates down my arms and I get a slight numbness at the edges of my hands and my fourth and pinkie fingers. I feel like the proverbial monkey is on my back and he's got his claws in my spine and shoulders. Has anyone else experienced this? What do you do about it?

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Old 01-12-2004, 01:00 AM   #2
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Re: Popping and cracking in sternum & neck?


I can relate all too well. I'm a hairdresser, also I was a sign language interpreter. I had repetitive strain injury in my wrists, elbows and shoulders. I've had pain in my neck and headaches since a fall from tripping at 11. I can't actually remember being without pain. I've taken a lot of pain medication and aspirin over the years. I also had lung surgery for a collapsed lung in '75. The compensation my left side has done (also, I'm right handed) over the years has created incredible pain as you describe.
With pain and being in the same position over long periods of time, the muscles start to constrict and put pressure on nerves.

I see a chiropractor for my tune-up. I go when I need to go, not on a regular appointment basis. For the not so serious stuff, my husband or I can do some "adjusting" ourselves.

I also have gone for deep tissue release massage and cranio-sacral work. It has all helped, but I don't go on a regular basis.

So, here's some suggestions....

~see your doctor. He/she may send you to physio. Get x-rayed to make sure there's nothing seriously wrong with that part of your anatomy.

~ HUG a pillow when you sleep on your side. You'd want one that's thick enough to support your upper body to not create your shoulder to sink in forward when you lay on your side. I use one that's about half the size of a regular bed pillow.

~ invest in a shaped neck pillow. It's a crap-shoot and I have no suggestions. My pillow isn't made anymore. I'm on the search for a new one before mine falls apart. Those space-age foam ones are hard as rocks and stink. I prefer an egg-crate one.

~ get some stretch bands and use them to strengthen your muscles. There are books and tapes to guide you.

~ check out books on repetative strain injury. They should show o neck and shoulder and upper back stretch exercises.

~ check out books on self-massage or pain relief books.

~ reflexology (hand/foot) is amazing. Not for immediate pain relief, but for part of a routine to help keep you pain/stress free.

~ if it doesn't freak you out, see a chiropractor. If you're not having any trouble with your neck, an adjustment on the mid and upper back can be amazingly pain-freeing

~ take up Pilates or yoga or some form of stretching routine exercise

~ be conscious of your head/neck/body posture at work and how you use your body when tense.

~ Accupuncture could help...I haven't sought it out yet, but I'm seriously thinking about it.

~ try relaxation techniques to relax individual muscle groups during breaks. Take breaks to do some of these exercises.

~ When I get serious aches and no time to see the chiro..I use Robaxacet or generic brand. It does help to relieve some of the spasms.

I know the pain you're talking about..and it can literally drive me crazy. You described it well.

I hope you get some relief soon.
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Last edited by quincy; 01-12-2004 at 01:07 AM.

Old 01-20-2004, 09:14 PM   #3
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Re: Popping and cracking in sternum & neck?

Thank you for your suggestions Quincy! I will try some of them and see if any of it helps. I did go to the doctor and of course he looked at me like nothing was wrong at all then sent me for an MRI. They never contacted me with the results so I assumed everything must be ok. Then the work got about 6x more stressful lately at my job and now it hurts constantly night and day so I'm looking into finding a better doctor. I somehow always get the ones where I could go in with my arm half torn off and they'd tell me to take extra strength Tylenol. Thanks again. It's good to know I'm not the only one with this problem.

Old 02-10-2004, 07:53 PM   #4
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Re: Popping and cracking in sternum & neck?

I have had that chest cracking thing for years. And elbow cracking and ankle cracking. It seems that some people just crack. Like yours, mine are also very audible, and, yes, sometimes that "crack" itself hurts like the dickens.

As for the stress, you better book yourself some relaxation time. Stress can do horrible things to us. When we get tensed and stay tensed ( I also have a tendency to clench my jaw ) our muscles become so tight they hurt. A really good, deep, therapeutic massage (or a few of them) helps a lot.
Try getting some relaxation tapes from the library. If you like them and they help, then you could purchase some.
My shoulder also clunks and it has been suggested that my ligaments are out of whack. I've been given a series of exercises to try to help. Too soon to tell, though.
Now, breathe deep.....exhale.....and again.......

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