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Creepy Creaking Neck

Creepy Creaking Neck

“Did you hear that?” I ask my husband.


“That creepy creaking in my neck—like an old door in a haunted house.”

“Um, no,” he says. Then he leans his ear towards my neck. “Ah! That’s terrible!”

It’s the attack of the creepy creaking neck and I hate it. Not only does it make cracking and popping noises, I have been getting headaches.

Other than my rheumatoid arthritis, I wish I knew the causes. I don’t have these neck issues all the time. They seem to come and go with no rhyme or reason.

I’m pretty fussy about my pillows and making sure my head and neck are properly supported while I sleep. I try to sit up straight, though I probably could do better. I have gentle neck exercises I do to stretch without aggravating the joints.

But there are these days when I have terrible neck pain that seems to radiate into my head, making it want to explode with throbbing. On these days when my neck and head have joined forces in a league of evil pain, I find it hard to keep my eyes open and think clear thoughts. Tylenol usually helps with the headache, but nothing cuts the neck aching.

Today was a relatively better day for my neck ache, because while it has lingered all day, the headache wasn’t as bad. Tonight I will try to pamper my heavy head and see if I can rest away some of my neck problems.

I know that my shoulder problems must be related to my neck. I don’t have a lot of motion in any of these joints, but my shoulders are pretty restricted. Perhaps because I carry tension in my shoulders, it pinches my neck?

Still, I can’t figure out why recently I have more neck pain and problems.

I recently read an article about how our modern fixation with our smartphones is horrible for our necks because we spend a lot of time bending our heads down to read texts, emails, and browsing the web on our tiny screens. This could definitely be me!

In this case, perhaps the prescription is more time away from gadgets. I think rest also helps, as it does with many of my RA-related challenges.

Another treatment that I find helpful is gentle neck massage. I don’t think the chiropractor is for me, but heat or massage do help my neck to relax and feel better.

Still, if I listen to the creaks, I feel that my neck problems are more than a relaxation issue and really have to do with my unhappy RA bones. Last year I asked my doctor to check my neck with an X-ray and was relieved when he reported there was nothing more serious than some signs of RA wear.

While I am not a neck expert, it’s probably about time that I get more educated about the long-term effects of RA on this area. Even if there’s not a lot I can do, perhaps knowing more would set my mind a little at ease from unnecessary worry.

And as much as I love my pillow, perhaps I should look into a new one that is constructed for neck support or joint issues. I should take a deeper look at how I treat my neck throughout the day, and how I may be contributing to my neck aggravation.

I don’t need any more creaking, thank you very much. And that rubbing, cracking in the neck just sounds scary as it reverberates up my spine and into my head. Time to show the creepy creak out the door.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • RikiJones
    6 months ago

    I also have RA and neck crackling and pain. Can I ask you what pillows have worked for you? I know it’s prob like buying a good running shoe, not all fit same person but I’ve tried several and can’t find one that helps!

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    5 months ago

    Hi RikiJones, I’ve been using a wedge pillow and then a little head pillow on top. It takes some trial and error to find the right arrangement. Good luck! Best, Kelly ( Team)

  • karenb54
    8 months ago

    Boy do I thank you for your article. I have been dealing with very bad neck issues for quite some time. I always thought it was as a result of my RA but the doctor just doesn’t see it. I have bone spurs in my neck and recently a pinched nerve. When I asked if it was cause by the RA the doctor didn’t have an answer. I also need to educate myself more on these effects. Every night I sit with my heat wrap and neck inflatable traction unit. Seems to alleviate some of the pain. Taking ibuprofen for the inflammation along with my medication helps but it’s a daily struggle. Thanks again for your article because I thought I was the only one with this issue.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    7 months ago

    Thanks karenb54. So sorry to hear about your neck issues. I would push your doctor on it and perhaps see an orthopedist. RA can attack the neck and cause some serious problems there, not to mention joint pain. It’s better to have it looked at earlier for prevention. Hang in there. Best, Kelly ( Team)

  • Yorkiemom1
    8 months ago

    My neck sounded like crushed glass. Always tight. Same with shoulders. A massage therapist told me she could work on my neck for an hour and it wouldn’t be enough. I was going to pain management for injections. One day Dr said come in my office I want to show you an xray. He seemed very concerned. I didn’t have enough bone to keep spinal fluid in. He said I needed surgery pretty quickly because if I fell or got into an accident that I could be paralyzed. I got a fusion in 2-7They went in from front. Then I had to have fusion in L 5-7 for ankoylotis (sp?) It was successful. No more crushed glass and lower back pain hardly ever. In between those two isurgeries I have osteoarthritis and beginning of scolisis. Now needing both knees replaced and maybe ankle surgery. Already had 2 hips replaced. Shoulder replaced. 2 carpal tunnel surgeries in each hand. Still have carpal tunnel.I guess this goes with RA. I’m almost bionic! Lol

  • Richard Faust moderator
    8 months ago

    Hi Yorkiemom. Quite a journey, but glad your neck is doing so much better. Funny you should mention becoming bionic. The author, Kelly Mack (full disclosure – I’m her husband) has another article titled “Call Me the Bionic Woman:” Best of luck with any future surgeries and please feel free to keep us posted on how you are doing. Richard ( Team)

  • Yorkiemom1
    7 months ago

    Thank you! Just curious, do others stay cold all the time? How about balance? I seem to be having these two issues a lot. Lost17 lbs this last year. It was needed. It might be I’m on 1mg of pred per day. Instead of high dose. I mg isn’t enough to help me, I have way too much pain most all the time. Wish I would go into remission.

  • Jaime4
    8 months ago

    Hey guys, I actually don’t have RA but this showed up in my FB feed. Soooo… inadvertent lurker here, because I guess FB is so good at stalking that they heard me talking about my neck. I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a genetic disorder that produces defective collagen. I have been having issues with pain, creaking, popping etc in my neck, and this weird sound that’s like a rainstick sound in the base of my skull. Anyhow, in case y’all hadn’t heard of craniocervical instability (CCI), I wanted to give you guys the heads up to google that, maybe that an RA, to see what you think. The fact that you talk about neck braces, plus some of the symptoms, definitely makes me wonder, and from my reading about CCI, the main people who are vulnerable to getting it are those with RA, Down’s syndrome and connective tissue disorders. Sorry if I’m stating the obvious, but I didn’t see anybody mention CCI, so I wanted to make sure y’all know of it. Take care.

  • hope hurts
    9 months ago

    awful flare in my neck led me to the drug store for a foam cervical neck collar. I put it on in the store and slept in it that night. It felt 100 times better the next day!!!

  • LifenowwithRD
    10 months ago

    My neck is pretty affected and actually was one of quite a few symptoms that lead me down the path to the diagnosis of RA. I’ve tried acupuncture (pre diagnosis) and heat, ice, stretching, multiple different pillows thinking I just needed the right one and I would feel better (the “my pillow” brand has been the best one for me). Now that I’m a few years in with several different trials of meds, my neck is thankfully way better. But, I still have loud enough cracks that my husband can also hear them, and occasionally I’ll still have some stiffness. Nothing as bad as being locked into position like it was. Anytime I had to move my neck it was excruciatingly painful. I’ve done a lot of research on RA in the neck and frankly, it scares the heck out of me! This is one of the worst places to have RA. Don’t ever have a chiropractor “crack” your neck, it could seriously kill you. Thank god I didn’t try that. The thought of the pain it would cause stopped me from considering it. Anyway, just thought I would pipe in with my own neck issue experience. Good luck to you with yours!

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    10 months ago

    Hey @lifenowwithrd!

    Thanks for sharing your story!! I definitely understand where you’re coming from. RA is a scary disease and so are it’s symptoms and side effects. I am glad you are feeling better with the meds!

    I don’t know if you are on the Facebook page but there was a pretty long conversation on chiropractors. Many agree with you that the risk is too great to see one but others swear by them!

    I am lucky I haven’t had too (too!) much neck involvement but I think I would rely on the medications to take down the pain and flare.

    All the best, Monica

    11 months ago

    I talk about this in my blog. Dr says severe arthritic neck. Degenerative Discs Disease.
    Hyaluronic Acid has do be wonders.

  • melmason
    12 months ago

    I can relate. I had a herniated cervical disc & had surgery a little over a year ago to remove the disc & had fusion done. The last month, I’ve been having neck & shoulder pain & blinding headaches. Family doc thinks it’s RA flare related, put me on steroid taper. It worked immediately, but symptoms are returning now that I’m off the steroids again. Might have to go back to rheumatologist. I can relate to all the noises, too. My neck makes all kinds of popping, crunching noises. It’s freaky! Lol

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    11 months ago

    Hi melmason, sorry to hear about your next troubles but glad the treatment was helping. Hoping the doctor has some other ideas! I personally think RA can be connected to headaches and feel like I get headaches connected to my neck pain. What a pain! Hoping that you find some relief soon. Best, Kelly ( Team)

  • Froggyprincess
    12 months ago

    My neck started popping at the very top about 6 months ago. Shortly after that my shoulders started hurting and then started losing my balance. I’m learning they are all related. Smh… Now my back is starting to pop all the way up my spine from the bottom. I lay on my side.. move just right and it’s like playing the accordion.. 1 joint at a time.

    They only really hurt when they are in a bind, same as getting the headaches. I’m still learning to listen to my body, rest and relax when it tells me too.

    Thank you for sharing your story. It has helped me alot.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    11 months ago

    Hi Froggyprincess, glad my story was helpful for you. Hang in there–sounds like you have some overly active neck joints! Hope you find some treatment that helps. I totally agree that listening to one’s body and resting are important things we need to do for ourselves. Take care. Best, Kelly ( Team)

  • EmilieW
    12 months ago

    I have regular gentle neck massages by a licensed massage therapist and I sleep with a foam cervical collar. Together, they have helped resolve some of my neck, back, and arm issues.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    12 months ago

    Those are some good tips, EmilieW! Thanks so much for sharing! Best, Kelly ( Team)

  • Sharon Fritz
    4 years ago

    I don’t have that but I have so much cracking in my jaw. Is that RA?

  • Jenn Lebowitz
    4 years ago

    Hi Sharon-

    Thanks so much for your question. While you may get more feedback on personal experience from the community, I thought this article could be helpful:

    We also encourage anyone experiencing new or worsening symptoms to contact their doctor to rule out any other possible underlying causes.

    I hope this is helpful! We’ll keep you in our thoughts.


    Jenn (Community Manager,

  • Anita
    4 years ago

    Neck issues are so annoying. I’ve had issues with it for the last few years. This year, it got to the point of causing numbness in my hands and feet, and the displacement “step-laddering” was getting worse, so I went in for surgery. I talked them into a disk replacement, since I’d read about how adjacent joints can deteriorate after fusion. I feel that fusion is a last resort, not a first step, and want to maintain as much mobility as possible.

    The surgery itself was a breeze. I had very little pain in the neck and the incision didn’t hurt at all. Recovery is slow, however, and I’ve had a weird eye complication where one eye is drooping a bit and the other is dilated. It’s strange and they haven’t figured out what’s up with it yet.

    I’ve actually had more pain lately and my shoulders are also giving me grief, so we’ll see how it goes. They tell me it can take a year to fully recover when the nerves are involved, so we’ll see what happens then.

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