Remember in grade school when your mother told you cracking your knuckles would make them bigger or give you arthritis?
While that was not quite true, she still had a good reason. Cracking your knuckles is not known to cause arthritis, but it can cause hand strength and mobility issues later in life if you do it a lot as a kid.
The same basic truth applies to cracking your own back. It’s not necessarily bad for you, but it might lead to issues later in life.
Is Cracking Your Back Bad?
Generally, no, cracking your bad isn’t bad for you, but the desire to do it may indicate an underlying problem.
Most of the time, people want to crack their back because they feel tension or pain in the back and believe that the cracking sound is an indicator of relief. And it can be, but the sound is not necessary for realignment of the spine, which is what really helps with the pain and tension.
Cracking your spine usually is done to relieve pressure along the joints. In short, something you’ve done has created pressure along your neck and spine, and the movement you took to crack your neck or spine relieved it.
Why Does Cracking Your Back Feel Good?
Generally speaking, humans have bad posture and bad habits. We spend too much time curling our necks to look at our phones and tablets, ignore workplace ergonomics, spend too much time in the same position staring at a computer screen, and don’t move enough.
So, when we use gentle stretching motions to crack our back, we get some relief, and it may even help our spines slide back into their best positions.
Scientifically, we don’t actually know why we get such instant relief with the sound or even why our bodies make the sound. Ferhan Asghar, M.D., assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at UC Health, explains that scientists are still debating what actually produces that cracking noise and feeling of relief.
Some scientists argue that it’s the sound of the gases surrounding your joints dissipating, while others think it is the sound of your joints and ligaments sliding back into place. But whatever the source of the sound, the key to safely cracking your own back is to be gentle and stretch.
Can Cracking Your Own Back Cause a Herniated Disc?
We know without a doubt that rapid, intense movement can cause damage to your spine and the area around it. That’s what happens with whiplash. So, it stands to reason that violently twisting your body or your neck to relieve back tension or pain can potentially cause more damage.
Does that mean you are likely to cause a slipped or herniated disc? This is where the science gets murky.
You are unlikely to generate enough force in a single back-cracking to cause damage to the spine. After all, our spines get bumped around a lot during the course of the day.
However, the science suggests that repeatedly cracking your own back can stretch the ligaments in unhealthy ways. This can cause perpetual instability, meaning your spine just isn’t as strong as it should be. And it may also lead to osteoarthritis.
Another immediate danger of violently cracking your own back is pinching a nerve. In essence, when you throw your body around trying to relieve the stress on your spine you may inadvertently cause the spine to pinch one of the nerves exiting through it. This can cause severe pain, muscle spasms, a burning sensation, and more.
Total Chiro Can Safely Treat Your Spine and Give You Relief
If slow, gentle stretches do not provide the relief you need for spine pain and discomfort, or if you find yourself cracking your back or neck several times a day, it’s time to consult a professional. Dr. Goldman at Total Chiropractic Care and Wellness can provide relief and help you develop the skills and posture to avoid future spinal discomfort. Contact us to get started or call (631) 447-2299.