Painful popping of the neck can indicate a problem. Popping by itself without pain is nothing to worry about as the facets are under suction. A release of that suction creates this pop. This is the same sound that a Chiropractor obtains with a manipulation.
Painful popping with residual continuing pain can be concerning. If there is no shoulder or arm pain and your balance and fine motor skills have not changed, local neck pain can be treated conservatively with physical therapy and medications. If after some time the pain does not improve, further testing might be required to find out what might have occurred.
If weakness, imbalance or new-onset arm pain have developed, further workup could be required much sooner.
Donald Corenman, MD, DC is a highly-regarded spine surgeon, considered an expert in the area of neck and back pain. Trained as both a Medical Doctor and Doctor of Chiropractic, Dr. Corenman earned academic appointments as Clinical Assistant Professor and Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and his research on spine surgery and rehabilitation has resulted in the publication of multiple peer-reviewed articles and two books.