is it safe to crack your back
Cracking your back may feel good temporarily, but it should be done by a trained chiropractor. Doing it yourself can cause more harm than good

Cracking your back may feel good and help relieve pressure, but it should be done by a trained chiropractor. When done correctly, spinal manipulation is generally considered safe. However, doing it yourself or having a friend do it for you can cause more harm than good.

Most people crack their backs by twisting or stretching, which releases tiny bubbles of gas in the spinal joints and produces a popping sound. Cracking incorrectly or too frequently can cause additional discomfort and pain

Although the spine is strong, the structures that support it can be delicate, especially if something is already out of place. So while it may feel good, you should avoid popping your spine too often. In worst-case scenarios, you could cause the discs in your back to herniate or slip, causing lifelong problems.

Why does it feel good to crack your back?

Doctors are unsure why joints can be cracked or popped in the first place, and research on why it feels so satisfying is limited. However, one possible explanation is that this movement helps reduce pain and inflammation. 

According to one theory, any non painful input (such as cracking your joints) closes those gates for painful input, preventing pain signals from traveling through the central nervous system (CNS). Some scientists argue that simply changing the posture of your back may be enough to prevent pain signals from reaching the CNS, thus providing temporary relief.

Another reason why cracking your back may feel satisfying is that simply stretching and moving the spine can relieve muscle tension after sitting in one position for an extended period of time.

What are the risks of cracking your back?

While it can be tempting to try cracking your own back to put things back into place, there are several important reasons why you should avoid being your own chiropractor. If you are in pain, see a trained medical professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Undiagnosed problems

  • Cracking your own back is dangerous and you may aggravate an existing problem. The source of your pain or discomfort may be more serious than you realize.
  • For example, if a slipped disc or a spinal curve is the cause of your discomfort, cracking your neck or back can cause harm in the long run.
  • If your neck or back is stiff, see a chiropractor rather than trying to crack your back yourself.

Unintended consequences

  • There are several muscles, blood vessels, and nerves in your neck and back that you may damage without realizing.
  • When you crack your neck, your spinal cord is especially vulnerable, which can result in paralysis in severe cases.

Long-term issues

  • When you repeatedly pop your back and neck over a long period, the ligaments in the area that help support your entire body can loosen, leading to more back and neck issues.
  • A healthy back has the ability to realign itself, and you could be hampering this natural ability by cracking your back too frequently.

What to do for back pain

Not only is cracking your back potentially harmful, but it’s also not as effective as other methods to relieve tension and stiffness:

  • Stretches: Stretch regularly, targeting different areas of the back. Shoulder stretches and neck stretches can help alleviate stiffness in those areas.
  • Home remedies: You can reduce swelling, relieve tension, and promote relaxation in your back by using common home remedies, such as ice packs, heating pads, or pain reliever creams.
  • Medical care: If you have chronic back pain or discomfort and stretching techniques are not providing relief, seek more effective treatment options by discussing it with your doctor.

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Medically Reviewed on 11/11/2021
References
Image Source: iStock Images

Northwestern Medicine. Quick Dose: Is Cracking Your Back Bad? https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/quick-dose-is-cracking-my-back-bad

Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute. Is It Safe To Crack Your Neck And Back? https://www.joionline.net/trending/content/it-safe-crack-your-neck-and-back

Library of Congress. What causes the noise when you crack a joint? https://www.loc.gov/everyday-mysteries/biology-and-human-anatomy/item/what-causes-the-noise-when-you-crack-a-joint/