Medical Q&As

Neck injury - crunching noise?

I broke my neck 7 years ago. I underwent surgery at the time that involved some bone grafting and the insertion of a metal plate. Since then I have had some restriction of neck movement. However, in the last year I have noticed an increase in the amount of crunching noises as I move my head. Also sometimes there will be a slight clicking. Is there a likelihood of further reduction in my ability to move my head in the future?

Given the nature of the injury you suffered it would not be unusual to experience some persistent reduction of neck movement. It is also possible that the level of restriction could increase over the coming years. Trauma to a joint or series of joints can accelerate the normal age-related process of degeneration that occurs with every joint. Sometimes this degeneration can result in pain, stiffness, restriction of movement and an audible crunching sound. However, the sound does not always emanate from the joints and can come from muscles in the neck. For example if the neck muscles are tense this can also give rise to creaking or cracking noises as the neck turns. An x-ray of the cervical spine or neck vertebrae would indicate the amount of degeneration that is currently present and would also facilitate comparison with the appearance of the vertebrae seven years ago. You could also discuss with your GP the possible benefits of undergoing physiotherapy, which might help to maintain a satisfactory range of movement and prevent further reduction.