When the chiropractor is cracking your neck, no bones are actually being cracked at all. Rather, the popping or cracking sound is made when air is released from the cushioning material between your vertebrae as your spinal column is being twisted. This protective padding material keeps your vertebrae from rubbing together and actually cracking.
Cervical spinal manipulation, spinal manipulative therapy, or spinal adjustments are some of the clinical terms used to refer to neck cracking as many lay people call it. When the chiropractor is performing these procedures, he or she is actually adjusting segments of your spine to relieve stress in your spinal column. The stress is relieved as the spine becomes realigned.
There are different schools of thought about exactly how hard a person's neck should be twisted to relieve stress and align the spine. Serious damage such as a stroke is thought to be a risk if the twisting that is a part of the process is too aggressive. The brain and the spinal cord are interconnected, so neurological harm to the body may result if the spinal column is severely damaged.
Chiropractors are trained to understand the entire spinal column as well as the neck and most would probably not want to use harsh, strong movements when cracking your neck. It is a good idea to be aware of your chiropractor's philosophy on this, however. The Network Spinal Analysis (NSA) system, for example, is one of the chiropractic care systems said to use gentle, subtle movements on the spine.
People may want to have their spines adjusted for many different reasons. Spinal misalignment may simply be caused by stress or by trauma to the spine such as from an accident. Some people just experience chronic neck or back pain and the discomfort may be caused either by too much movement or not enough movement in the affected area. Although cracking your neck is a common reaction to sleeping in a position that caused spinal misalignment, a chiropractor should really be the one to perform spinal adjustments to prevent any damage to the body.