The sound of joints cracking (or popping). Some people hate it (my mother, for example), the rest don't care or just don't comment. For those who do it, if they're anything like me, they feel an immediate reduction in tension in the joint in question.
'If you keep doing that, you'll get arthritis!', is a common misconception spouted by many. Interestingly, in my experience it's mostly from the people who don't like the sound. But in some of the finest scientific research, this has been proven to be a myth: Medical doctor Donald Unger regularly cracked the knuckles of his left hand for fifty years while not manipulating those of his right. No arthritis or other ailments formed in either hand, and he was awarded 2009's Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine.
That's not to say the cracking is without its problems. I occasionally find my joints swelling and becoming painful to not just manipulate in excessive ways but even to use normally. Ibuprofen often comes to the rescue in these cases. This doesn't negate the long term assessment of dangers of cracking, more highlighting possible short-term discomfort.
Sometime in 2004, my neck started going. Moving it around (looking left and right, up and down) generated the feeling all 'crackers' know (and love?) Before long, it was added to my regular repertoire; I'm quite a cacophony these days.
Earlier this year, I started seeing a chiropractor. At the time I was reaching out and trying anything I could to improve the quality of sleep I was having. I quickly – i.e. during the consultation – determined I don't believe in the main tenet of chiropractic treatment (please read the linked Wikipedia article for more information), but my good god could Adil crack me in ways other men haven't! I started seeing him frequently. Each time my back and neck would feel more mobile, relaxed. I soon added to the mix an occasional sports massage; a good combination, especially if you can get a masseuse (or masseur) you connect with.
Over the past couple of months however, my neck has been a source of constant pain. It would want to crack regularly which would increase the tension in my neck (as the muscles would have to constrict in order to pop the vertebrae (I think it's the vertebrae, anyway). Over the course of a day this often lead to a stinking headache coupled with the inability to relax when I got home; to which the only solution was bed. At 7pm. Rock and roll!
I went to my chiropractor on Saturday, had a massage too, and discussed the neck issue with her (Adil's brought in a new chiropractor to cover some of his shifts). Her take is the cracking in the neck is due to it being pulled, twisted, manipulated outside its normal bounds, and basically, I need to try and stop. Over time, apparently, the need for it to crack will reduce and it'll start to feel better. It makes sense to me logically, even if I'm not in a position to validate the physiological side of what she's saying.
The rest of Saturday was fine, I was very relaxed and at ease, sitting in Caffè Nero, reading the Kindle; the neck felt wonderful. Yesterday was a completely different story and only when I arrived home and took painkillers was I able to relax. Does this mean it's work related stress/tension or does correlation not imply causation in this case? I strongly suspect, and hope, the latter. Either way, I need to tackle this, it's a challenge.
So for the rest of the week (and onwards), I'm doing what I can to force a state of relaxation around my shoulders which will then cascade up to my neck. Not hunching them up and combating the muscle memory I've built up around the habit are the biggest hurdles to overcome.