Back cracking is the “pop” sound heard after bending or twisting back to relieve stiffness and pain from back. The pop sound is heard from our joints on occasions with stretches inadvertently, but some people do it consciously and repeatedly to relieve tension from the joint and yet some people make it a constant habit of cracking their backs.(1) It is reasonable to think that back cracking is good or bad and the answer is simple; excess of everything is bad and same goes for back cracking too. Although, it provides relief from stiffness and pain; however, there are certain downsides to cracking back frequently.
Why Is a Pop Sound Heard When Cracking Back?
Cracking joints is also known as joint cavitations, which feels good and helps in increasing the range of motion of the joint. The sound from the joints after self-adjusting of the joint is alarming, but the pop sound heard is not an indication of something breaking in the body. It is merely a sound produced by the escape of gases (nitrogen or carbon dioxide) from the joint spaces when enough pressure is built in it. This escape of gases provides temporary relief to the joint and from pain and stiffness too.
Is It Good or Bad To Crack Your Back?
Does back cracking cause any major damage? Typically, back cracking does not cause any major damage to the back when done occasionally. However, the habitual cracking of back or in fact any joint can lead to wearing of the surrounding tissues including ligaments, tendons, or any other soft tissues structures. This might lead to damage of the spine in the long run and can cause hypermobility of the spine. Hypermobility is a result of repeated and over stretching of back muscles and the spine leading to loss of normal elasticity. This might lead to incorrect positioning of the spine and inability to return to normal position. Back cracking might also build a tolerance to it and might lead to spinal damage.
What Is The Alternative To Back Cracking?
Although, back cracking is not bad when done in moderation, but instead, back stretches, or massage can be done to relieve tension from the back muscles. Even limiting back cracking to once per week is a healthier option. A simple stretching exercise is flexing forward and extending backwards along with bending on either side.
Other back stretching exercises include lying on the back on a yoga mat and bringing both knees close to the chest with arms. Back stretching can be achieved by rocking backwards and forwards and holding the position for at least 30 seconds and repeating it 4 to 5 times daily.
Another back stretching exercise is kneeling on a padded surface with butts resting on soles of feet. Back is stretched by bending from the waist and extending the arms as far as possible and trying to touch the nose to the floor, the stretch should be held in position for 30 seconds and should be done 3 to 5 times daily.
Back stretches can be done while sitting, lying or standing and extending the spine or doing spinal rotation while standing or sitting and twisting stretch while lying down on the back.
If there is persistence of back stiffness and pain after stretching back muscles, then it is time to visit a back specialist such as a chiropractor or an osteopath. A chiropractor will do thorough evaluation of the spine and will determine when and where to apply chiropractic adjustments and manipulations. A chiropractor will determine what treatment is needed, whether mobility or stability issue is to be addressed, or what intervention is required, whether soft tissue treatment, therapeutic exercise or spinal adjustments is to be made or combination of interventions is required. Back cracking requires proper training and it should be attempted by talking to and with the aid of a licensed health professional only if one needs to get one’s back cracked.
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