Posted on: April 22, 2019 at 5:28 pm
Last updated: October 15, 2020 at 3:20 pm

We’ve all heard that cracking and popping our joints can lead to arthritis and other joint problems. The sound associated with this cracking and popping is also likely to irritate others around you. However, while we often hear the dangers of cracking your joints, several studies have concluded that this isn’t linked to arthritis.


While you may be cracking and relieving with ease now. Recently a 23-year old paramedic, Natalie Kunicki, from Harrow in London stretched and cracked her neck and then woke up partially paralyzed. While her cracking didn’t cause arthritis, this story shares how cracking and popping can still be risky.

Natalie was watching movies in bed with her friend after a night out. She stretched out her neck and heard a loud crack. She thought nothing of it, as she routinely cracked her joints.


She fell asleep and woke up just 15-minutes later to go to the washroom. As she tried to get out of bed she collapsed, and soon realized that she couldn’t walk.

After a night out, Natalie initially thought that she had been drugged, or that she was drunk. She was hesitant at first to call an emergency service, she was embarrassed that they might tell her that she was just tipsy after a night out.

Little did she know that the crack in her neck had caused a vertebral artery to rupture, which lead to a blood clot in her brain, and triggered a stroke.

When she finally called in for help. The ambulance crew began running tests and found her blood pressure and heart rate to be very high. They knew something was seriously wrong as her coordination had also deteriorated.


Upon arriving at the University College London Hospital, tests confirmed she had suffered a stroke and needed emergency surgery. In her three-hour procedure, doctors discovered this burst artery. While they were able to repair her artery with a stent, they could not completely clear the blood clot in her brain.

After surgery, Natalie needed help to do simple tasks such as going to the washroom and showering. She was left “emotionless” for days. It’s unfortunately common for stroke patients to enter a phase of depression after the fact. Natalie lost her independence and needed assistance for what used to be mindless tasks. She also experienced a burning and tingling sensation throughout the left side of her body, needed a wheelchair and was unable to lift her arm or wiggle her toes.

Natalie is looking to bring awareness to her experience. She is now working through rehabilitation, and while the doctors haven’t given her an exact timeframe for when she will reach full recovery, Natalie has since recovered movement and touch sensation in her left side. Natalie is now able to dress herself and walk for up-to five-minutes at a time. In 12-months she should be able to return to work with light-duties.

While the chances of what happened to Natalie are very rare, a stroke should never be discounted, even for those in their early twenties. Natalie’s left side was left almost completely paralyzed, and this stroke diagnosis was still a shock to her.

A stroke occurs when blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off. This causes brain injury, disability or death as the brain cells begin to die.

This is a life-threatening medical condition which should not be taken lightly. A stroke requires urgent attention and emergency treatment. Protocol include medication or surgery, and survivors are typically left with long-term complications which are related to the respected injury to their brain.

A stroke happens quickly, here are some signs and symptoms to remember:

  • Their face may be drooped on one side and they may be unable to smile
  • Speech may be slurred or they may lose the ability to talk entirely
  • They may not be able to lift both of their arms due to a sudden weakness and numbness

Remember the acronym F.A.S.T

F – Face: Ask the person to smile. If one side of their face droops they may be having a stroke.

A-Arms: Ask the person to lift both arms. Does one arm lift easier than the other or drift downwards?

S – Speech: Ask the person to speak. Is their speech slurred?

T – Time: If you see any of the above signs, call 911 or whatever your local emergency services number may be.

It’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms, we need to act F.A.S.T. in this scenario.

While the causation of Nathalie’s stroke may be a rare occurrence, experiencing stroke due to other factors is not. To reduce your long term risk of experiencing a stroke, you can practice prevention by ensuring your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels are healthy. Following a healthy lifestyle which includes daily movement, a healthy diet that includes colorful vegetables in each meal, moderating alcohol consumption and avoiding smoking at all costs.

A stroke is something that should not be taken lightly. It’s also something that we should not discount. This isn’t something that just affects those in their 60’s and 70’s, as Natalie’s story shares – it can happen to anyone.

Natalie’s older brother, Michael has set up a fundraising page to help her remain in London and support her recovery and well-being. She has since needed to give up her flat and may need to move back to Australia to live with her parents.


The Hearty Soul
Health Network
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