In the vast majority of cases, neck cracking is a harmless activity, but it really wasn’t in the case of 23-year-old paramedic Natalie Kunicki, who was partially paralyzed after cracking her neck one evening while watching movies in bed... To learn more about Ms. Kunicki's story and the health risks of neck cracking, continue reading below.
The Night of the Accident
Natalie Kunicki moved from Canberra, Australia, to work in London as a paramedic for the London Ambulance Service. On the evening of March 3, 2019, while watching movies with a friend, Natalie accidentally cracked her neck. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Natalie stated that the crack was much louder than normal, but she initially dismissed it since she is prone to joint cracking.
It wasn’t until she tried to get up that she noticed the first symptoms of what would turn out to be a stroke. At first, she felt really dizzy, which she first attributed to the alcohol she had that night, but then, she collapsed completely and couldn’t move the left side of her body. “I looked down and realized I wasn’t moving my left leg at all then I fell to the floor.”
As her condition kept worsening, her friend rushed her to the emergency room, where a CT scan revealed that Natalie had suffered a stroke. The cause of the stroke? While cracking her neck, the 23-year-old ruptured one of her vertebral arteries, a major blood vessel supplying the brain with blood. This, in turn, caused a brain hemorrhage in the right brain hemisphere, leaving the young woman’s left side completely paralyzed.
A few days after the accident, Natalie underwent three hours of surgery at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, during which the doctors managed to repair her artery using a stent. Unfortunately, the damage of the stroke cannot be undone so easily, and it will take months of physiotherapy for her to regain mobility.
Right after the surgery, Natalie admits that she felt very depressed and even emotionless, as she couldn’t believe what a toll a simple crack in the neck has had on her health, independence, and dignity. Still, she had made great progress in the past few months, and doctors state that the blood clot in her brain that formed after the stroke will likely disappear in time and they’re hoping for a full recovery.
Meanwhile, Natalie is making progress, literally one step at a time. Daily exercises have helped her regain sensation and movement in the left side of her body, and she can walk, but for no more than 5 minutes, still. For now, Natalie’s brother set up a gofundme page to help with the growing medical bills. Hopefully, after the recovery, Ms. Kuricki will be able to return to her duties.
Is Neck Cracking Bad for You?
As mentioned above, Natalie was at a very low risk of stroke, so her case is very unfortunate and surprising, to say the least. In fact, doctors state that the chances of a young person like her getting a stroke as a result of neck cracking is one in a million. Still, her story begs for the question, “Is neck cracking bad for you”?
While in the majority of cases neck cracking is fine, there are several risks associated with it. For one, if you do it improperly or very often, it can cause a pinched nerve, which makes neck movement very difficult and painful for days and may even require medical attention.
Apart from that, repeated neck cracking can stretch out your muscles and joints, which causes instability in the neck and contributes to osteoarthritis. It can also cause headaches, with one 2011 study discussing the case of a woman getting a severe migraine accompanied by dizziness, extreme pain, and vomiting after cracking her neck.
Finally, neck cracking can cause damage to blood vessels and increases one’s risk of suffering a stroke more than 6 times, as pointed out in a research article. Certainly, we can all learn from Natalie Kunicki's story and crack our necks more carefully and as little as we can. Of course, our hearts go out to Natalie and her family and we wish her a speedy and full recovery. If you wish to learn more about Natalie’s story, you can watch the video below.