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You have had a tough day and you feel the tension in your back. You turn a certain way and your back pops and cracks – and the tension in your back is gone. You have just done a “self-adjustment” and may have started a habit. But is cracking your back bad for you? If not, how often should you crack your back to avoid overdo it? How to perform back cracking correctly?

Is Cracking Your Back Bad?

The short answer is that if you crack your back occasionally to relive your pain or back stiffness, it should not cause any consequences. However, if you do this on a regular basis, damage may be done to your spine, and you will find yourself needing to crack your back much more often for relief.

Hypermobility and Why It Harms Your Spine

A healthcare provider (physician, chiropractor, or physical therapist) can help to diagnose the problem that is leading to the need for cracking your back. Remember that repeatedly cracking your back can lead to a condition called “hypermobility”.

Hypermobility results when the spine and muscles around the spine are stretched repeatedly. Normally, the spine, muscles and ligaments of the back are elastic much like a rubber band. As you move, this natural elasticity results in a return to normal position when you relax the muscles of your back. When you repeatedly stretch a rubber band, it eventually loses its elasticity. When the structures in your back are stretched repeatedly by cracking, they also will begin to lose this normal elasticity which can result in the inability of the back to return to its normal position. As the normal elasticity is lost, your back and spine move in ways that were never intended – your back becomes hypermobile.

How Is Back Cracking Performed?

Before doing any back cracking, be sure to consult your healthcare provider who will undoubtedly give you back exercises to build the strength in your back. When you have been examined by your healthcare professionals, they may tell you that it is OK to occasionally crack your own back. There are several different methods you can use to perform the process.

1. In a Chair

First, sitting in a stationary chair with arms, reach across your body and grab the opposite arm of the chair. In other words, reach your left arm across your body and grab the right arm of the chair. Very gently and slowly, twist your body to the right until you feel the release of tension and hear the crack. Do NOT stretch violently or quickly since this may result in damage to your back. Repeat stretching the other way.

2. On the Floor

You can also crack your back while lying flat on a firm surface. Bend one leg and stretch it across the other leg until the knee touches the floor. For example, with your left leg straight, bend the right leg up and gently and slowly stretch the left leg across the straight right leg. Try to touch your left knee to the floor on the outside of your right leg. Stop when you hear your back crack or if the stretch becomes too painful. Repeat with the other leg.

See some good yoga stretching exercises at:

Is Cracking Your Knuckles Bad?

What about cracking other joints? Many of us were taught that cracking your knuckles will result in arthritis in your hands. This is probably not true, but is cracking your knuckles bad for you? When you crack your knuckles, the sound is actually caused by gas (carbon dioxide and nitrogen primarily) in the synovial fluid of the joint to quickly move into the space caused when you pull the bones of the joint apart. After you crack a joint, it takes as much as half an hour for the gasses to dissolve back into the joint fluid where it more properly belongs. As you crack your joints, the stretching of the ligaments actually stimulates the nerves and makes the joint feel pretty good.

But are you doing harm? While the research indicates that cracking your knuckles will not cause arthritis, repeatedly cracking the joints of your hands can have the same effect as it has on your back. Just like the hypermobility that can happen in your back, the same thing can happen in your hands with repeated knuckle cracking. The elasticity of your ligaments can be affected and you can begin to lose strength and coordinated movement of your hands.

It is always a good idea to check with your healthcare provider if you notice any joint pain or stiffness. You should never use self-adjustment as a way to care for your back or your knuckles!

Published August 22, 2016

After a long day, you may feel the need to bend or twist your body until you hear that relieving «pop» sound in your joints. But is the old wives’ tale about cracking our joints true? Could you be causing serious damage?

We got this question from a viewer:

I know people say cracking your knuckles is bad for you, but what about your back? It feels great to crack my back but is it just as bad?

Technically, cracking your back isn’t bad for you, but routinely cracking your back is a different story.

“Cracking or self-adjusting any joint within the body is bad for you if it is done in a habitual manner,” Dr. Christopher Anselmi, a Chiropractor at Hospital for Special Surgery’s Integrative Care Center in New York City told FoxNews.com. “These joints are composed of ligaments, tendons and other soft tissue structures which can wear out over time. Any undue placed on these joints can lead to premature breakdown.”

Although the “cracking” or “popping” noise you hear may sound alarming, it doesn’t mean anything is breaking. Our joints contain fluid and gases like nitrogen and carbon dioxide. When the liquid is put under pressure and force is applied to the joint, the gas exits and creates a «pop-like» sound.

If you’re cracking your back to alleviate tension, Anselmi suggests easy stretches.

“A simple way to stretch a tight back is to get into the shower and stretch your back out gently. After roughly 5 minutes [of showering], flex forward extend backwards, and bend from side to side. Make sure not to bounce or over-do it,” Anselmi said.

Cracking your back may not cause any major damage to your bones and joints, but if you constantly feel the need to do do, you should see a back specialist to determine if you have any underlying conditions.

“If your back pain persists a chiropractor is an excellent choice as a first line of defense for back pain,” Anselmi said. “When a professional manipulates the spine or any joint in the body it is performed in a controlled manner and followed by specific exercises or stretches. This approach ensures attention is given to both the joint and its surrounding tissues.”

You’ve been sitting at your computer all day, and your neck feels stiff. You roll your head around and hear a pop in your neck that suddenly makes it feel better.

Does that sound like you?

If you crack your own back or neck, you’re not alone. Studies show that many of us commonly crack our knuckles, necks and even even our toes on a regular basis.

Come on. If cracking your neck or back feels better, how can it be so bad for you?

Let’s take a minute to list the parts of the body that are contained in the neck area:

  • blood vessels
  • spinal cord
  • bones
  • joints
  • muscles
  • arteries
  • nerves
  • ligaments

With all of those tiny, yet essential body parts involved, forcefully moving the neck beyond its normal limits, can cause a great deal of damage!

Do you have a disc bulge? Does your neck have any anatomical malformations? Without a proper exam, you have no way of knowing, and some of these risk factors depend on the rotating and twisting forces in the neck.

What Makes the Cracking or Popping Sound?

Joints contain oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide gasses as well as fluid that lubricates the area where two bones meet. When you put liquid under pressure (which happens when you put pressure on a joint), the tiny gas bubbles in the joint are released, creating a popping sound.

It’s similar to opening a can of soda. The pressure in the can is released when you open it, and the gas bubbles forcefully rise to the top with a pop!

When the gas bubbles are released, the fluid within the joints lubricates the joint surfaces restoring movement and nerve function. But best of all, you feel relief.

So If You Feel Better, What’s the Problem?

Each time you manipulate your own joints, you are causing your ligaments to stretch like a rubber band.

When you stretch a rubber band too many times, it loses its shape and can become unstable and could even snap.

Your ligaments function in the same way.

When you continually stretch them by cracking your own neck or back, they can no longer provide the structure and stability that the joints in your neck or back need to maintain proper alignment.

This can lead to a whole list of problems including pinched nerves, misaligned vertebra, stiffness and pain.

In addition,when you crack your own neck or back, the joints you’re actually “cracking” are supported by the ligaments that are already stretched too thin, not the areas of the spine that are locked up and causing you pain or stiffness.

So, you’re never really fixing the problem – just releasing the gasses, stretching ligaments and lubricating joints that are already too stretched out.

So what’s the alternative?

A good chiropractor will take the time to to a through examination and X-rays to determine which areas of the spine are locked up (hypomobile) and which areas are too stretched out (hyper mobile).

Conservative chiropractic care for neck pain will then follow with a Report of Findings where the chiropractor will explain the results of the exam and suggest a written treatment plan to restore normal motion to your joints.

Take Away: A spine that is functioning normally has the ability to heal and maintain proper function without relying on constant manipulation.

Craking your own joints may feel good temporarily, but if it creates long-term structural problems in your back and neck, it’s not worth the risk.

Learn more about neck pain treatment through chiropractic therapy or schedule an appointment online to see if our conservative chiropractic care for neck pain can help with the specific symptoms you’re experiencing.

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